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Satellite Requirements for Observation of Close Proximity Celestial Bodies
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1  Tecnologico de Monterrey, School of Engineering and Sciences
Academic Editor: Francisco Falcone


Celestial bodies of our solar system remain as a major unexplored and unexploited reserve of natural resources available to humans. Furthermore, those constitute a valuable source of information about the origins and evolution of the solar system and an alternative to establish human settlements in the future. Observation and understanding of the land conditions of those celestial bodies is vital to learn more about those celestial bodies, to generate accurate maps of them, to look for natural resources of interest, and to evaluate the feasibility and help in the preparation of future land missions. A satellite constellation constitutes an important infrastructure element to observe those celestial bodies and to transmit the retrieved information back to Earth. Nonetheless, the operation of sensing satellites in other planets needs understanding of the requirements to perform such observations. In this paper we discuss those sensing requirements from the point of view of orbits and payload requirements for one of our closest neighbors of the solar system (Moon, Mars). To analyze the orbit of the sensing satellite, we discuss the required altitude to facilitate ground observation, the orbit’s conditions (such as radiation levels and orbital perturbations, among others), suitable orbit configurations, required number of satellites, and ways to estimate the required time to perform full observation of the celestial body. To evaluate suitable payloads, we discuss available information in the literature (such as known atmospheric and land conditions) to determine the best observation frequencies and determine the best kind of payload (such as sensors, a camera, or a lower frequency observation payload) to study that celestial body. Finally, we discuss some important considerations such as the requirements of satellite communication link to transmit the retrieved information back to Earth.

Keywords: Nanosatellites; orbits; payload; sensing satellite