A CubeSat Mission for Mapping Spot Beams of Geostationary Communications Satellites
AIR FORCE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB OH GRADUATE SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND MANAGEMENT
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As space-rated technologies become more compact and more readily available over time, the concept of accomplishing space missions with smaller nanosatellite-class spacecraft becomes increasingly feasible. This research focuses specifically on a CubeSat mission to assist with radio frequency RF domain verification that of characterizing and mapping K-band spot beams from communications satellites in geostationary orbit. By flying a constellation of CubeSats through the edges of spot beams originating from geostationary communication satellites, the spot beams coverage area will be characterized. This research conducts a mission feasibility assessment, identifies the principle mission requirements to complete a spot beam mapping CubeSat mission, and examines various constellation configurations that are able to complete the spot beam mapping mission. It was found that certain spot beam mapping CubeSat constellations performed well, specifically regarding mapping time, spot beam detection capability, and overall mapping resolution. On the whole, the spot beam mapping mission was deemed feasible under the governing assumptions and requirements. Constellations with CubeSat formations that used specific spacing between themselves in an orbital plane could be synchronized to produce ground-based spot beam maps with excellent resolution however constellations with a single plane of evenly-spaced CubeSats or particular Walker constellations could produce better results over shorter durations.
- Unmanned Spacecraft