Designing Natural Formations of Low Earth Orbitting Satellites

P L Palmer & M. Halsall


In this paper we describe possible natural formations for satellites in low Earth orbit
which exploit the Earth’s oblateness. These formations are based upon an analytic
model of natural formations for satellites in nearly circular orbits, which has already
been published, and explores the range of formations available. We describe how we
parameterise the formations and then derive from this parameterisation the orbital
elements needed for each satellite orbit and then show the long term evolution of these
orbits to show the slow evolution of the formation geometry over time. We demonstrate
the formations maintain their projected shape in the sky without control over a day, in
the presence of gravitational perturbations. This shows that the control requirements
for long term maintenance of such formations can be reduced considerably for long
term maintenance.


Paper: FFTool

Ref: Palmer, P.L. & Halsall, M., AIAA J Guidance, Control & Dynamics, 32, No 3,  pp. 860—868, 2009.


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