The feasibility of multiple spacecraft stationkeeping for submillimeter and optical interferometry is examined. A condition for interferometry is that two or more spacecraft must control their relative positions with better than 1 mn accuracy indefinitely in both radial and transverse directions although separated by as much as 1 Km in LEO and 100 Km in GEO. They must also maneuver through a useful area of the U-V plane of an arbitrary astronomical source. The problem is first outlined and a solution which utilizes gravity gradient forces to do most of the work and ion thrusters for additional maneuvering is proposed. All the perturbing forces are shown to be small compared to the ion thruster requirements. An inertial position and attitude control strategy is suggested which utilizes existing or soon to be available sensors and actuators. Finally, the fuel and power system mass requirements are estimated and found to be within reason for a 10 year mission.
Anthony B. DeCou, Anthony B. DeCou,
"Station-keeping strategy for multiple-spacecraft interferometry", Proc. SPIE 1494, Space Astronomical Telescopes and Instruments, (1 September 1991); doi: 10.1117/12.46750; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.46750