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Clumping Satelites together...

Posted by: Sean Girling - Tue Apr 25, 2006 12:39 pm
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Clumping Satelites together... 
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Space Walker
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Post Clumping Satelites together...   Posted on: Tue Apr 25, 2006 12:39 pm
I was wondering if it were possible to design satelites such that they could dock / connect to each other, share resources and generally just do their job a bit tidier. Every time we send a new sat up, we just add to the myriad of floating debris. If they manouvered themselves into clumps, they would be just one big satellite performing many functions.

What do you think?

If this went on long enough, they might just become a couple of rings of equipment circling the Earth.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Apr 25, 2006 1:30 pm
Hello, Sean Girling

I find your idea interesting.

It's reminding me to an idea I posted in another thread longer time ago - I proposed a platform to install equipment on and replace the equipment later when it is no longer of any use or when it can be substituted by something better if required.

At the moment your idea sounds more attractive to me. I seem to remember one study at NIAC reminding to this idea but not being identical.



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Post    Posted on: Tue Apr 25, 2006 2:14 pm
Mmm, it also occurs to me that equipment becomes old and out dated, but we discard them while some of their other systems are still in working order. An old sat doesn't have the computing power needed, or maybe the camera / detector resolution, or perhaps it's communications array is now too slow and out moded. However, it'll still have solar panels and batteries and gyros and monouvering ability and a raft of other useful abilities. Being connected to the group it could share those facilities out.

If you knew that your new sat was going to join a particular clump, you'd perhaps design it knowing the sat clump's facilities, such as power available, and the devices already in place. Perhaps all that might be needed would be new computing and communication units. The rest of the devices already being in place and their data being shared.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Apr 25, 2006 7:21 pm
Satellites are used primarily for communication and surveillance (I'm counting weather monitoring as part of that). For these purposes, the location of the satellite is all-important, and individual satellites are generally designed for individual orbits. Also, two satellites sitting right next to each other would probably have a nasty tendency of interfering with each other's communications systems.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Apr 25, 2006 8:02 pm
spacecowboy wrote:
Also, two satellites sitting right next to each other would probably have a nasty tendency of interfering with each other's communications systems.


One would hope that co-orbit satellites would deconflict their comm packages. The ITU has prohibits satellites in GEO from inteferring with one another. I'm not as well versed for other orbits on the frequency interference regulations.

Still, if one were to develop un/docking satellites, failure modes had better be planned for. A stuck thruster would generate a lot of debris in a collision.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Apr 26, 2006 5:18 am
IIRC geo-synchronous comm satellites have to be 1 degree apart, to avoid interference.

Maybe they can be closer if their receivers and transmitters point at different specific regions of Earth? From that altitude, the Earth covers 18 degrees of arc.


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Post    Posted on: Wed Apr 26, 2006 7:51 am
Yeah, I thought there'd be multiple orbits for those that needed to focus on specific regions. I had really only thought of weather and communication sats. There was mention on another site of a new comm sat over Europe being needed for extended high def broadcasts, and I was thinking that it'd be nice just to add the additional newer equipment to an existing sat, so my musing built from there. Dead sats occupy valuable realestate, why not just move in and up date? What if the bandwidth of the broadcast was increased so that the data from another conjoined sat was included.

Anyway, you're right about the interference and dangers should a docking maneuver go wrong.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Apr 26, 2006 8:21 am
There is an strengthening tendency to micro-, nano- and picosats.#

Shouldn't this reduce risks of collisions - regardless of during docking and undocking as well as by encounters? They should allow for micro-manoevering, closer distances and the like I suppose.

Intereferency could simply be a lower boundary of distances - but does clumping necessaryly mean short distance to each other? Couldn't it mean networking between the satellites?

To me it looks as if your idea is better than thought, Sean Girling.



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Post    Posted on: Tue May 02, 2006 10:10 am
Networking would be good too. Sort of like a web of resources, sharing data in a P2P manner between them.

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Post    Posted on: Wed May 03, 2006 11:43 am
Might the article "Mini-Satellite to Test Big Concepts Aboard Space Station"
( www.space.com/businesstechnology/060503 ... s_iss.html ) be reporting about a first approach to your idea, Sean Girling?

Or is it a bit too far off it?

...
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Post    Posted on: Wed May 03, 2006 1:42 pm
Nope, that's just the beginning of it my friend. Damn it, the more we talk about things, the less original my ideas become. I'm pleased though. It means we will soon have space telescopes several miles in diameter that are really just a shuttle payload of mini-space telescopes, floating in unison. We'll have automatic manouvering and docking proceedures that really work. We'll have, dare I joke, sat nav. Ha ha ha!

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Post    Posted on: Wed May 03, 2006 7:54 pm
Well, to answer the original question, it should be quite possible to design and build satelite modules in such a way that they can mount on orbital platforms which would then supply them with power, control lines and limited communications facilities.

A lower tech version of this is going on all over the world today. I'm talking about colocation providers. They offer cabinet (rack) space, physical security, provide network connections and power to people and organisations for the right price.

Of course, getting physical access to your colocated satelite would be a bit harder than visiting your server colocation provider . . . :D

Cheers,
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Post    Posted on: Sun May 07, 2006 8:27 pm
I fear this will just add to space junk. I would rather see fewer larger assets that can be more easily tracked.


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Post    Posted on: Mon May 08, 2006 2:49 pm
publiusr wrote:
I fear this will just add to space junk. I would rather see fewer larger assets that can be more easily tracked.


True, but this drives up the cost. I don't think we're talking about coffee canned satellites, maybe more like college-dorm-fridge-sized satellites. These are trackable in LEO and at other altitudes with tracking enhancement devices (bright, reflectives surfaces for optical tracking and right-angled metal for radar tracking).

I'm all in favor of modular spacecraft and even clusters of satellites, as long as they make economic and safety sense, balanced against their mission needs.

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Post    Posted on: Mon May 08, 2006 3:57 pm
Hell, they could use GPS to relay their exact position couldn't they? Why don't all satellites and space craft have GPS? These could be attached to large object that we know will become junk too. Like the shuttle's external tank?

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