Satellite 'formation Flying' Simulated

PARIS, Sept. 9 (UPI) — Scientists getting ready for planned multi-satellite missions are getting in some “practice” thanks to sophisticated simulators, European space officials said.

Several space agencies are preparing formation-flying missions involving numbers of satellites, the European Space Agency said Thursday.


The relative positions of the satellites must be maintained precisely. Lose control of one part of the formation, even momentarily, and the satellites risk destruction.

This will take some difficult formation flying, and a new computing resource should help achieve that.

The Formation Flying Test Bed is a suite of software running across linked computers to simulate all aspects of a formation-flying mission, the ESA said.

At the agency’s space research and technology center in the Netherlands, this new facility can emulate the running of more than a single satellite at once.

“It is a generic simulator for formation-flying missions, whether they include two spacecraft or as many as five or six,” ESA’s Raffaella Franco said.

The test bed simulates crucial operational factors for formation flying including mission and vehicle management, guidance navigation, dealing with faults and communicating between satellites.

In ESA’s first formation flying mission, due for launch in 2014-15, Proba-3′s two satellites will form the first “external coronagraph” in orbit, with one satellite maintaining an artificial eclipse of the sun as seen from the other so that hidden details of the solar corona can be seen.

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Categorized | Other, Solar
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