Session

Technical Session I: Space Mission Architectures

Location

Utah State University, Logan, UT

Abstract

This paper showcases ESA’s Proba-3 mission as a demonstration of how small satellites, in combination with formation flying technology, can achieve relevant scientific goals and perform scientific measurements not possible otherwise, all within a tight cost and programmatic context. The study of the Sun inner corona down to 1.1 solar radius can only be performed by creating in space artificial eclipses with a large distance between a Coronograph instrument and an occulting disk, much bigger than the size of any spacecraft that can fit within a launcher.

Proba-3 will achieve these enhanced scientific observations by controlling two small satellites (~1.5 m cubes in the 200-300kg range) as a 150 m long ‘large virtually rigid structure’ by maintaining millimetre and arc second relative precision. In effect the paired satellites will fly as a giant virtual satellite creating an ‘externally occulted’ coronagraph, in which a satellite imager is shielded from glaring sunlight by an occulting disk on the other satellite, forming an artificial eclipse. Precise station keeping for Coronagraphy will be kept for 6 consecutive hours within each 20 hour orbit for a minimum total of 1000 hours of scientific observations over the 2 years of mission lifetime. This will be achieved autonomously, without relying on the ground for active control of the formation.

In addition, Proba-3 will practically demonstrate formation flying technologies enabling other future science missions: station-keeping at different relative distances (from 25 m up to 250 m); approaching and separating in precise formation without losing millimetre precision; the capability to repoint the formation as a virtual rigid body away from the Sun and the combination of station keeping, resizing and re-targeting manoeuvres.

Proba-3 is at full speed in the assembly, integration and verification phase, with the aim of launching Proba-3 in two years’ time. The paper describes the overall Proba-3 mission concept and detailed design, the different challenges that were overcome in spacecraft design, formation flying metrology and control, and the need to implement novel verification and operation approaches to achieve the world’s first precise formation flying mission.

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Aug 1st, 12:00 AM

Proba-3: ESA’s Small Satellites Precise Formation Flying Mission to Study the Sun’s Inner Corona as Never Before

Utah State University, Logan, UT

This paper showcases ESA’s Proba-3 mission as a demonstration of how small satellites, in combination with formation flying technology, can achieve relevant scientific goals and perform scientific measurements not possible otherwise, all within a tight cost and programmatic context. The study of the Sun inner corona down to 1.1 solar radius can only be performed by creating in space artificial eclipses with a large distance between a Coronograph instrument and an occulting disk, much bigger than the size of any spacecraft that can fit within a launcher.

Proba-3 will achieve these enhanced scientific observations by controlling two small satellites (~1.5 m cubes in the 200-300kg range) as a 150 m long ‘large virtually rigid structure’ by maintaining millimetre and arc second relative precision. In effect the paired satellites will fly as a giant virtual satellite creating an ‘externally occulted’ coronagraph, in which a satellite imager is shielded from glaring sunlight by an occulting disk on the other satellite, forming an artificial eclipse. Precise station keeping for Coronagraphy will be kept for 6 consecutive hours within each 20 hour orbit for a minimum total of 1000 hours of scientific observations over the 2 years of mission lifetime. This will be achieved autonomously, without relying on the ground for active control of the formation.

In addition, Proba-3 will practically demonstrate formation flying technologies enabling other future science missions: station-keeping at different relative distances (from 25 m up to 250 m); approaching and separating in precise formation without losing millimetre precision; the capability to repoint the formation as a virtual rigid body away from the Sun and the combination of station keeping, resizing and re-targeting manoeuvres.

Proba-3 is at full speed in the assembly, integration and verification phase, with the aim of launching Proba-3 in two years’ time. The paper describes the overall Proba-3 mission concept and detailed design, the different challenges that were overcome in spacecraft design, formation flying metrology and control, and the need to implement novel verification and operation approaches to achieve the world’s first precise formation flying mission.