General perturbation method for satellite constellation deployment using nodal precession

McGrath, Ciara N. and Macdonald, Malcolm (2020) General perturbation method for satellite constellation deployment using nodal precession. Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics, 43 (4). pp. 814-824. ISSN 1533-3884 (

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The dawn of "New Space" in recent years is changing the landscape of the space industry. In particular, the shift to smaller satellites, requiring shorter development time s and using off-the-shelf-components and standardized buses, has led to a continuing reduction in spacecraft cost. However, launch costs remain extremely high and frequently dominate the total mission cost. Additionally, many small satellites are designed to operate as part of a larger constellation, but traditional launch methods require a difference dedicated launch for each orbit plane to be populated. This need for multiple costly launches can stifle, and even prohibit, some missions requiring numerous orbit planes as the launch cost increases beyond what can be justified for the mission. As of 2014, most smallsats, including CubeSats, have been launched on opportunistic ‘rideshare’ or ‘piggy-back’ launches, in which the spacecraft shares its launch with other craft, often as a secondary payload. This has the advantage of providing a cheaper launch but restricts the operator’s choice of orbit, which will affect the system performance.