Science enabled by high precision inertial formation flying
by Gerry K. Skinner; Brian R. Dennis; John F. Krizmanic; Eduard P. Kontar
International Journal of Space Science and Engineering (IJSPACESE), Vol. 1, No. 4, 2013

Abstract: The capability of maintaining two satellites in precise relative position, stable in a celestial coordinate system, would enable major advances in a number of scientific disciplines and with a variety of types of instrumentation. The common requirement is for formation flying of two spacecraft with the direction of their vector separation in inertial coordinates precisely controlled and accurately determined as a function of time. We consider here the scientific goals that could be achieved with such technology and review some of the proposals that have been made for specific missions. Types of instrumentation that will benefit from the development of this type of formation flying include: 1) imaging systems, in which an optical element on one spacecraft forms a distant image recorded by a detector array on the other spacecraft, including telescopes capable of very high angular resolution; 2) systems in which the front spacecraft of a pair carries an occulting disk, allowing very high dynamic range observations of the solar corona and exoplanets; 3) interferometers, another class of instrument that aims at very high angular resolution and which, though usually requiring more than two spacecraft, demands very much the same developments.

Online publication date: Wed, 30-Apr-2014

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