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Systems design of a hybrid sail pole-sitter

Ceriotti, Matteo and McInnes, Colin (2011) Systems design of a hybrid sail pole-sitter. Advances in Space Research, 48 (11). pp. 1754-1762. ISSN 0273-1177

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This paper presents the preliminary systems design of a pole-sitter. This is a spacecraft that hovers over an Earth pole, creating a platform for full hemispheric observation of the polar regions, as well as direct-link telecommunications. To provide the necessary thrust, a hybrid propulsion system combines a solar sail with a more mature solar electric propulsion (SEP) thruster. Previous work by the authors showed that the combination of the two allows lower propellant mass fractions, at the cost of increased system complexity. This paper compares the pure SEP spacecraft with the hybrid spacecraft in terms of the launch mass necessary to deliver a certain payload for a given mission duration. A mass budget is proposed, and the conditions investigated under which the hybrid sail saves on the initial spacecraft initial mass. It is found that the hybrid spacecraft with near- to mid-term sail technology has a lower initial mass than the SEP case if the mission duration is 7 years or more, with greater benefits for longer duration missions. The hybrid spacecraft with far-term sail technology outperforms the pure SEP case even for short missions.