Analysis of orbit determination from Earth-based tracking for relay satellites in a perturbed areostationary orbit
Areostationary satellites are considered a high interest group of satellites to satisfy the telecommunications needs of the foreseen missions to Mars. An areostationary satellite, in an areoequatorial circular orbit with a period of 1 Martian sidereal day, would orbit Mars remaining at a fixed location over the Martian surface, analogous to a geostationary satellite around the Earth. This work addresses an analysis of the perturbed orbital motion of an areostationary satellite as well as a preliminary analysis of the aerostationary orbit estimation accuracy based on Earth tracking observations. First, the models for the perturbations due to the Mars gravitational field, the gravitational attraction of the Sun and the Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, and solar radiation pressure are described. Then, the observability from Earth including possible occultations by Mars of an areostationary satellite in a perturbed areosynchronous motion is analyzed. The results show that continuous Earth-based tracking is achievable using observations from the three NASA Deep Space Network Complexes in Madrid, Goldstone and Canberra in an occultation-free scenario. Finally, an analysis of the orbit determination accuracy is addressed considering several scenarios including discontinuous tracking schedules for different epochs and different areoestationary satellites. Simulations also allow to quantify the aerostationary orbit estimation accuracy for various tracking series durations and observed orbit arc-lengths.