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Mission analysis and systems design of a near-term and far-term pole-sitter mission

Heiligers, Jeannette and Ceriotti, Matteo and McInnes, Colin and Biggs, James (2012) Mission analysis and systems design of a near-term and far-term pole-sitter mission. In: 1st IAA Conference on Dynamics and Control of Space Systems, 2012-03-19 - 2012-03-21.

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This paper provides a detailed mission analysis and systems design of a near-term and far-term pole-sitter mission. The pole-sitter concept was previously introduced as a solution to the poor temporal resolution of polar observations from highly inclined, low Earth orbits and the poor high latitude coverage from geostationary orbit. It considers a spacecraft that is continuously above either the North or South Pole and, as such, can provide real-time, continuous and hemispherical coverage of the polar regions. Being on a non-Keplerian orbit, a continuous thrust is required to maintain the pole-sitter position. For this, two different propulsion strategies are proposed, which result in a near-term pole-sitter mission using solar electric propulsion (SEP) and a far-term pole-sitter mission where the SEP thruster is hybridized with a solar sail. For both propulsion strategies, minimum propellant pole-sitter orbits are designed. In order to maximize the spacecraft mass at the start of the operations phase of the mission, the transfer from Earth to the pole-sitter is designed and optimized assuming either a Soyuz or an Ariane 5 launch. The maximized mass upon injection into the polesitter orbit is subsequently used in a detailed mass budget analysis that will allow for a trade-off between mission lifetime and payload mass capacity. Also, candidate payloads for a range of applications are investigated. Finally, transfers between north and south pole-sitter orbits are considered to overcome the limitations in observations due to the tilt of the polar axis that causes the Poles to be alternately situated in darkness. It will be shown that in some cases these transfers allow for propellant savings, enabling a further extension of the pole-sitter mission.