The objective of this research is to determine the possibility of an alternative for government-developed satellites which produce high resolution imagery. This study focuses on the concept of the U.S. government purchasing proven and successful commercial satellites with minimal non-recurring engineering costs to help augment current national systems. The benefit with this alternative is the reliability and affordability of a system that is currently used in space and therefore reduces a significant amount of risk as well as production time. A constellation of commercial satellites that are reconstituted on a monthly or quarterly cycle could also invigorate the commercial satellite work force and better produce future systems. A disadvantage with an architecture of commercial satellites are potential limitations with geolocation accuracy and data rate downlink transmission capability. This thesis evaluates constellation design factors such as orbit types, number of satellites, life-cycle and ground segment implementation. A coverage capability evaluation is provided to determine how a commercial system would be able to fulfill national imagery collection requirements. Eight different constellation types were created, ranging from one to 12 satellites in size. Orbit analysis settled on a sun-synchronous polar elliptical orbit at 185 km x 700 km, using an existing commercial satellite with a 0.6m optic. This provided imaging with a resolution range between 10-37 inches. The largest constellation of 12 satellites would provide a daily area collection of 43,000 km2 and 150 point images for a region the size of Iraq and would have an estimated $1-2B cost for an annual life cycle cost. Revisit time for mid-latitude targets was approximately one day at 10 inch resolution.
Olsen, Richard C.
Naval Postgraduate School (U.S.).
Space Systems Operations
Naval Postgraduate School
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