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Novel mission concepts for polar coverage : An overview of recent developments and possible future applications

Ceriotti, Matteo and Diedrich, Benjamin and McInnes, Colin (2012) Novel mission concepts for polar coverage : An overview of recent developments and possible future applications. Acta Astronautica, 80. pp. 89-104. ISSN 0094-5765

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The paper provides a survey of novel mission concepts for continuous, hemispheric polar observation and direct-link polar telecommunications. It is well known that these services cannot be provided by traditional platforms: geostationary satellites do not cover high-latitude regions, while low- and medium-orbit Sun-synchronous spacecraft only cover a narrow swath of the Earth at each passage. Concepts that are proposed in the literature are described, including the pole-sitter concept (in which a spacecraft is stationary above the pole), spacecraft in artificial equilibrium points in the Sun-Earth system and non-Keplerian polar Molniya orbits. Additionally, novel displaced eight-shaped orbits at Lagrangian points are presented. For many of these concepts, a continuous acceleration is required and propulsion systems include solar electric propulsion, solar sail and a hybridisation of the two. Advantages and drawbacks of each mission concept are assessed, and a comparison in terms of high-latitude coverage and distance, spacecraft mass, payload and lifetime is presented. Finally, the paper will describe a number of potential applications enabled by these concepts, focusing on polar Earth observation and telecommunications.