Improved candidate generation and coverage analysis methods for design optimization of symmetric multi-satellite constellations
Much attention in recent years has focused on commercial telecommunications ventures involving constellations of spacecraft in low and medium Earth orbit. These projects often require investments on the order of billions of dollars (US$) for development and operations, but surprisingly little work has been published on constellation design optimization for coverage analysis, traffic simulation and launch sequencing for constellation build-up strategies. This paper addresses the two most critical aspects of constellation orbital design — efficient constellation candidate generation and coverage analysis. Inefficiencies and flaws in the current standard algorithm for constellation modeling are identified, and a corrected and improved algorithm is presented. In the 1970's, John Walker and G. V. Mozhaev developed innovative strategies for continuous global coverage using symmetric non-geosynchronous constellations. (These are sometimes referred to as rosette, or Walker constellations. An example is pictured above.) In 1980, the late Arthur Ballard extended and generalized the work of Walker into a detailed algorithm for the NAVSTAR/GPS program, which deployed a 24 satellite symmetric constellation. Ballard's important contribution was published in his "Rosette Constellations of Earth Satellites."