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Displaced geostationary orbit design using hybrid sail propulsion

Heiligers, Jeannette and Ceriotti, Matteo and McInnes, Colin and Biggs, James (2011) Displaced geostationary orbit design using hybrid sail propulsion. Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics, 34 (6). pp. 1852-1866. ISSN 0731-5090

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Due to an increase in number of geostationary spacecraft and limits imposed by east-west spacing requirements, the geostationary orbit is becoming congested. To increase its capacity, this paper proposes to create new geostationary slots by displacing the geostationary orbit either out of or in the equatorial plane by means of hybrid solar sail and solar electric propulsion. To minimize propellant consumption, optimal steering laws for the solar sail and solar electric propulsion thrust vectors are derived and the performance in terms of mission lifetime is assessed. For comparison, similar analyses are performed for conventional propulsion, including impulsive and pure solar electric propulsion. It is shown that hybrid sails outperform these propulsion techniques and that out-of-plane displacements outperform in-plane displacements. The out-of-plane case is therefore further investigated in a spacecraft mass budget to determine the payload mass capacity. Finally, two transfers that enable a further improvement of the performance of hybrid sails for the out-of-plane case are optimized using a direct pseudo-spectral method: a seasonally transit between orbits displaced above and below the equatorial plane and a transit to a parking orbit when geostationary coverage is not needed. Both transfers are shown to require only a modest propellant budget, outweighing the improvements they can establish.