Launch Capacity Analysis for Commercial Communications Satellites
The continued growth of the commercial communications satellite industry in the midst of industry rationalization (i.e., mergers and acquisitions) requires increased productivity and careful management of resources by the satellite manufacturers. One particular problem that can benefit from operations research tools is the delivery of satellites to launch bases and launch campaign support. The satellite manufacturer selects launch vehicles and corresponding launch sites from which to launch its satellites, and allocates accordingly resources to support the final satellite checkout and launch. A given satellite launch requires the movement of personnel and equipment across the globe and ties up these resources for a significant duration. While the total number of satellites to be launched annually is relatively small, the flow of production is typically subjected to delays and surges, which can tax the availability resources of the manufacturer. The penalties for the delay of a several hundred million dollar satellite can be significant, and negatively impact several programs if proper capacity planning is not implemented.
This chapter examines several planning activities in launch operations and how Operations Research techniques can be used to assist in the decision-making process. Typical spacecraft launch campaigns are discussed in terms of schedules and critical paths that determine overall throughput. Linear programming is used to optimize selection of launch vehicles for cost minimization and assess the capacity of finite resources to support multiple campaigns. Monte Carlo simulations are generated to predict resource requirements for serial and parallel campaigns given uncertainties in start and completion schedules. Simulations can also be used to determine probabilistic estimates of campaign durations and evaluate the sensitivity of a launch campaign length to various tasks and external factors. Finally, a decision-tree analysis is applied to contingency decision-making for assigning critical resources. These examples provide basic approaches for improving productivity and reducing operating costs in space launch operations for the spacecraft manufacturer.
Keywordscommunication satellites satellite delivery and launch logistic strategy
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