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NewSpace could eliminate Sun-Synchronous orbits
by Staffs Writers for Launchspace
Bethesda, MD (SPX) Jun 04, 2019

NewSpace is a recently formed movement and philosophy that encompasses a globally emerging private spaceflight industry. This term is generally used in connection with a global private sector of new aerospace companies and ventures.

One primary objective is to develop faster, better and cheaper access to space and spaceflight technologies. This movement is thought to be a major driving force in the growing near-Earth space commerce market. The increased traffic from the soon-to-be-launched 15,000 new satellites will have some unexpected consequences.

One expected consequence is the demise of the sun-synchronous family of orbits. A sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) is one of the most frequently used orbits for Earth-science and national security missions. SSOs are near-polar orbits whose ascending nodes precess at a rate that is matched to the Earth's mean orbital rate around the sun, i. e., about one degree per day.

This motion allows the maintenance of the orbit's geometry with respect to the sun such that solar lighting along the SSO satellite's ground track remains approximately the same over the mission's duration.

Thanks to the Earth's asymmetrical gravity field, a natural force is exerted on these orbits that results in precessional motion that assures a constant sun angle as each SSO satellite passes over the Earth's surface.

The figure illustrates the relationship between SSO inclination and altitude for circular orbits. For example, one SSO satellite at 800 km altitude would have to have an inclination of 98.6 degrees in order to maintain a constant sun angle with the orbit.

SSOs have been used for more than 50 years. One result of this is the accumulation of a large population of resident space objects (RSO) consisting of active satellites, expired satellites, discarded rocket bodies and many other debris objects.

Thus, the orbital belt between 700 and 900 km altitude is the zone of highest debris population and is becoming so congested that flight threats in this region are approaching critical levels. Without a solution to the growing population of expired satellites, old rockets and other debris, the safe use of SSOs will soon become impossible.

While SSO surveillance satellites have the advantage of photographing ground structures over and over with the same lighting conditions, and making the job of photo analysts relatively easy, SSO missions will have to be discontinued. Such orbits are actually dinosaurs in the age of virtual reality, data analytics, high-speed data transmission and other recently developed technologies.

With these new capabilities any comprehensive Earth-coverage network of redesigned ISR satellites can collect observational data, process this data and produce virtual results that represent critically important national security intelligence.

Such constellations can avoid most debris and adversarial threats, resulting in a highly resilient and hard-to-jam national security system. This is the kind of project also seems highly suitable for development by the new Space Development Agency (SDA).

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Airbus wins three satellite deal from Inmarsat for revolutionary spacecraft
Toulouse, France (SPX) May 31, 2019
Airbus has signed a contract with Inmarsat, the world leader in global mobile satellite communications, to design, manufacture and build the first in their next generation of geostationary Ka-band satellites, Inmarsat GX7, 8 and 9. The three satellites are the first to be based on Airbus' new OneSat product line, which is fully reconfigurable in orbit. Featuring on board processing and active antennas, the three Ka-band spacecraft will be able to adjust their coverage, capacity and frequency. They ... read more

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