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Novel pole-sitter mission concepts for continuous polar remote sensing

Ceriotti, Matteo and Heiligers, Jeannette and McInnes, Colin (2012) Novel pole-sitter mission concepts for continuous polar remote sensing. In: SPIE Remote Sensing Conference 2012, 2012-09-24 - 2012-09-27.

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The pole-sitter concept is 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 hemispheric coverage of the polar regions. Despite the significant distance from the Earth, the utility of this platform for Earth observation and telecommunications is clear, and applications include polar weather forecasting and atmospheric science, glaciology and ice pack monitoring, ultraviolet imaging for aurora studies, continuous telecommunication links with polar regions, arctic ship routing and support for future high latitude oil and gas exploration. The paper presents a full mission design, including launch (Ariane 5 and Soyuz vehicles), for two propulsion options (a near-term solar electric propulsion (SEP) system and a more advanced combination of a solar sail with an SEP system). An optional transfer from the North Pole to South Pole and vice-versa allows viewing of both poles in summer. The paper furthermore focuses on payloads that could be used in such a mission concept. In particular, by using instruments designed for past deep space missions (DSCOVR), it is estimated that resolutions up to about 20 km/pixel in the visible wavelengths can be obtained. The mass of these instruments is well within the capabilities of the pole-sitter design, allowing an SEP-only mission lifetime of about 4 years, while the SEP/sail propulsion technology enables missions of up to 7 years.