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Spaceborne Autonomous and Ground Based Relative Orbit Control for the TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X FormationTerraSAR-X (TSX) and TanDEM-X (TDX) are two advanced synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites flying in formation. SAR interferometry allows a high resolution imaging of the Earth by processing SAR images obtained from two slightly different orbits. TSX operates as a repeat-pass interferometer in the first phase of its lifetime and will be supplemented after two years by TDX in order to produce digital elevation models (DEM) with unprecedented accuracy. Such a flying formation makes indeed possible a simultaneous interferometric data acquisition characterized by highly flexible baselines with range of variations between a few hundreds meters and several kilometers [1]. TSX has been successfully launched on the 15th of June, 2007. TDX is expected to be launched on the 31st of May, 2009. A safe and robust maintenance of the formation is based on the concept of relative eccentricity/inclination (e/i) vector separation whose efficiency has already been demonstrated during the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) [2]. Here, the satellite relative motion is parameterized by mean of relative orbit elements and the key idea is to align the relative eccentricity and inclination vectors to minimize the hazard of a collision. Previous studies have already shown the pertinence of this concept and have described the way of controlling the formation using an impulsive deterministic control law [3]. Despite the completely different relative orbit control requirements, the same approach can be applied to the TSX/TDX formation. The task of TDX is to maintain the close formation configuration by actively controlling its relative motion with respect to TSX, the leader of the formation. TDX must replicate the absolute orbit keeping maneuvers executed by TSX and also compensate the natural deviation of the relative e/i vectors. In fact the relative orbital elements of the formation tend to drift because of the secular non-keplerian perturbations acting on both satellites. The goal of the ground segment is thus to regularly correct this configuration by performing small orbit correction maneuvers on TDX. The ground station contacts are limited due to the geographic position of the station and the costs for contact time. Only with a polar ground station a contact visibility is possible every orbit for LEO satellites. TSX and TDX use only the Weilheim ground station (in the southern part of Germany) during routine operations. This station allows two scheduled contact per day for the nominal orbit configuration, meaning that the satellite conditions can be checked with an interval of 12 hours. While this limitation is usually not critical for single satellite operations, the visibility constraints drive the achievable orbit control accuracy for a LEO formation if a ground based approach is chosen. Along-track position uncertainties and maneuver execution errors affect the relative motion and can be compensated only after a ground station contact.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Ardaens, J. S. (Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fuer Luft- und Raumfahrt Wessling, Germany)
D'Amico, S. (Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fuer Luft- und Raumfahrt Wessling, Germany)
Kazeminejad, B. (Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fuer Luft- und Raumfahrt Wessling, Germany)
Montenbruck, O. (Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fuer Luft- und Raumfahrt Wessling, Germany)
Gill, E. (Technische Hogeschool Delft, Netherlands)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
September 24, 2007
Publication Information
Publication: Proceedings of the 20th International Symposium on Space Flight Dynamics
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing and Performance
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.

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IDRelationTitle20080012629Analytic PrimaryProceedings of the 20th International Symposium on Space Flight Dynamics