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Analyzing Large Constellations: Starlink, OneWeb, Telesat and many more!

By: Austin Claybrook

Over the next 10 years, 50,000+ satellites may be added to the Earth’s orbit. Compare that to the less than 3,000 operational satellites today. Even compared to the ~20,000 space tracked objects, this is still a multifold increase.

To quote Voltaire, “With great power comes great responsibility”, a quote that gained more recent fame during a conversation between Peter Parker and his uncle in the 2002 Spiderman film. But unlike Spiderman, this great responsibility falls not solely on one person, but instead on the entire space community to be good stewards over our friendly space neighborhood.

*Enough with the bad movie references,* but this does mean that it is now our responsibility as a mission planner, satellite operator, or end user to be aware of the impact of these new satellites. Hopefully, not a literal impact! Which brings me to the next point: collision analysis, accurate orbit determination, coverage analysis, and communications interference analysis will become increasingly important as the number of satellites steadily rises.

*Cue the music* Enter the Constellation Wizard to help you do just that! The Constellation Wizard is a python based script, which also has a UI, to allow you to quickly import, build, and analyze the impacts of these constellations.

Here are some key features of the Constellation Wizard:

  • Create and save constellations of satellites, either planned or currently flying satellites.
  • Import up-to-date TLE files located on Celestrak.
  • Load constellations into STK as visual multitrack object (MTOs).
  • Filter the constellations based on deck access or another metric to reduce the number of satellites needed for computation.
  • Load  a subset of satellites into STK as objects. You can also can make use of a seed satellite to bring along any sensors, transmitters, receivers, and antennas.
  • Constellation objects for the satellites and each child object are created for use in chain, coverage, and comm system objects.
  • And lastly, unload buttons to remove all of the objects just imported, so you can quickly move onto your next analysis.

Explore the Constellation Wizard here: https://agiweb.secure.force.com/code/articles/Custom_Solution/Constellation-Wizard.

Posted: 4/27/2020 8:00:00 AM


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