Title:
Testing Methodology For Spacecraft Precision Formation Flying Missions

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Author(s)
Kimmel, Elizabeth
Paletta, Antoine
Arunkumar, Ebenezer
Krahn, Grace
Lightsey, E. Glenn
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Abstract
Distributed space systems, and specifically spacecraft formations, have been identified as a new paradigm for addressing important science questions. However, when it comes to verifying and validating these systems before launch, there is the added challenge of figuring out how to test the formation's holistic operations on the ground since a full end-to-end mission simulation is likely infeasible due to the need for costly testing infrastructure/facilities. Building on established methods for single-spacecraft testing, this paper presents a two-phase testing methodology that can be applied to precision formation flying missions with budget, timeframe, and resource constraints. First, a testing plan with unique considerations to address the coordinated and coupled nature of precision formation flight is devised to obtain high system confidence on the ground, and second, the formation's holistic behavior is refined on orbit during the mission's in-space commissioning. This approach structures the pre-launch testing to make efficient use of the limited test infrastructure on hand and leverages a sequential configuration process combined with built-in operational flexibility on orbit to safely finish characterizing the formation's performance so that it can meet mission requirements.
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Date Issued
2023-02
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Paper
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