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9 October 2020 Sky visibility analysis for astrophysical data return maximization in HERMES constellation
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HERMES is a scientific mission composed of 3U nanosatellites dedicated to the detection and localization of high-energy astrophysical transients, with a distributed space architecture to form a constellation in Earth orbits. The space segment hosts novel miniaturized detectors to probe the x-ray temporal emission of bright events, such as gamma-ray bursts, and the electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational wave events, playing a crucial role in future multimessenger astrophysics. During operations, at least three instruments separated by a minimum distance shall observe a common area of the sky to perform a triangulation of the observed event. An effective detection by the nanosatellite payload is achieved by guaranteeing a beneficial orbital and pointing configuration of the constellation. The design has to cope with the limitations imposed by small space systems, such as the lack of on-board propulsion and the reduced systems budgets. We describe the methodologies and the proposed strategies to overcome the mission limitations, while achieving a satisfactory constellation visibility of the sky throughout the mission duration. The mission design makes use of a high-fidelity orbit propagator, combined with an innovative mission analysis tool that estimates the scientific performances of the constellation. The influence of the natural relative motion, which is crucial to achieve an effective constellation configuration without on-board orbit control, is assessed. The presented methodology can be easily extended to any kind of distributed scientific space applications, as well as to constellations dedicated to Earth and planetary observation. In addition, the visibility tool is applicable in the context of the constellation flight dynamics operations, yielding optimized results and pointing plans based on actual satellite orbital positions.

© 2020 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) 2329-4124/2020/$28.00 © 2020 SPIE
Andrea Colagrossi, Jacopo Prinetto, Stefano Silvestrini, and Michèle R. Lavagna "Sky visibility analysis for astrophysical data return maximization in HERMES constellation," Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems 6(4), 048001 (9 October 2020).
Received: 10 April 2020; Accepted: 22 September 2020; Published: 9 October 2020

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