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Laplace plane and low inclination geosynchronous radar mission design


This study is inspired by the Laplace orbit plane property of requiring minimal station-keeping and therefore its potential use for long-term geosynchronous synthetic aperture radar (GEOSAR) imaging. A set of GEOSAR user requirements is presented and analysed to identify significant mission requirements. Imaging geometry and power demand are assessed as a function of relative satellite speed (which is determined largely by choice of orbit inclination). Estimates of the cost of station-keeping as a function of orbit inclination and right ascension are presented to compare the benefits of different orbit choices. The conclusion is that the Laplace plane (and more generally, orbits with inclinations up to 15°) are attractive choices for GEOSAR.

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Parts of this research have been supported by the European Space Agency, the UK’s Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation, and a ‘111’ Program grant to a consortium including Beijing Institute of Technology, China, and Cranfield University, UK. Particular thanks are due to Professors Andrea Monti Guarnieri (Politecnico di Milano, Italy) and Geoff Wadge (University of Reading, UK) who led the study of GeoSTARe user requirements reported in this article, and to Aida Alcalda Barahona for calculating the costs of station-keeping. The anonymous referees’ constructive comments are much appreciated. Students of the MSc in Astronautics and Space Engineering at Cranfield University for the academic year 2014–2015 studied the feasibility of a Laplace plane GEOSAR mission; this article has been inspired by their work.

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Correspondence to Stephen Hobbs.

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Hobbs, S., Sanchez, J.P. Laplace plane and low inclination geosynchronous radar mission design. Sci. China Inf. Sci. 60, 060305 (2017).

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  • Laplace plane
  • station-keeping
  • geosynchronous
  • inclination