Systematic Identification of Preferred Orbits for Magnetospheric Missions: 1. Single Satellites.

David P. Stern
Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771.


"The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers"-- R.W. Hamming .

This is a systematic attempt to identify and assess near-equatorial, high-eccentricity orbits best suited for studying the Earth's magnetosphere, in particular its most dynamic part, the plasma sheet of the magnetotail. The study was motivated by the design needs of a multi-spacecraft "constellation" mission, stressing low cost, minimal active control and economic launch strategies, and both quantitative and qualitative aspects were investigated. On one hand, by collecting hourly samples throughout the year, accurate estimates were obtained of the coverage of different regions, and of the frequency and duration of long eclipses. On the other hand, an intuitive understanding was developed of the factors which determine the merits of the mission, including long-range factors due to perturbations by the Moon, Sun and the Earth's equatorial bulge.

The author may be reached at david("at" symbol)

Last updated 31 October 2002