Abstract On Orbit Servicing (OOS) is a class of dual-use robotic space missions that could potentially extend the life of orbiting satellites by fuel replenishment, repair, inspection, orbital maintenance or satellite repurposing, and possibly reduce the rate of space debris generation. OOS performed in geostationary orbit poses a unique challenge for the optical space surveillance community. Both satellites would be performing proximity operations in tight formation flight with separations less than 500 m making atmospheric seeing (turbulence) a challenge to resolving a geostationary satellite pair when viewed from the ground. The two objects would appear merged in an image as the resolving power of the telescope and detector, coupled with atmospheric seeing, limits the ability to resolve the two objects. This poses an issue for obtaining orbital data for conjunction flight safety or, in matters pertaining to space security, inferring the intent and trajectory of an unexpected object perched very close to one's satellite asset on orbit. In order to overcome this problem speckle interferometry using a cross spectrum approach is examined as a means to optically resolve the client and servicer's relative positions to enable a means to perform relative orbit determination of the two spacecraft. This paper explores cases where client and servicing satellites are in unforced relative motion flight and examines the observability of the objects. Tools are described that exploit cross-spectrum speckle interferometry to (1) determine the presence of a secondary in the vicinity of the client satellite and (2) estimate the servicing satellite's motion relative to the client. Experimental observations performed with the Mont Mégantic 1.6 m telescope on co-located geostationary satellites (acting as OOS proxy objects) are described. Apparent angular separations between Anik G1 and Anik F1R from 5 to 1 arcsec were observed as the two satellites appeared to graze one another. Data reduction using differential angular measurements derived from speckle images collected by the 1.6 m telescope produced relative orbit estimates with better than 90 m accuracy in the cross-track and in-track directions but exhibited highly variable behavior in the radial component from 50 to 1800 m. Simulations of synthetic tracking data indicated that the radial component requires approximately six hours of tracking data for an Extended Kalman Filter to converge on an relative orbit estimate with less than 100 m overall uncertainty. The cross-spectrum approach takes advantage of the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) permitting near real-time estimation of the relative orbit of the two satellites. This also enables the use of relatively larger detector arrays (>106 pixels) helping to ease acquisition process to acquire optical angular data.

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Acta Astronautica
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Scott, R. (Robert), & Ellery, A. (2015). An approach to ground based space surveillance of geostationary on-orbit servicing operations. Acta Astronautica, 112, 56–68. doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2015.03.010