Feasability of lidar missions in low altitude orbits maintained by electric propulsion

Lévêque, Nicolas Didier Robert Roger (2012) Feasability of lidar missions in low altitude orbits maintained by electric propulsion. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Lidars are very promising instruments for the remote-sensing of the Earth, and are eagerly awaited for operational missions, particularly in the observation of the atmosphere. However, spaceborne lidars are still in their early development and there have been many setbacks associated with their technology. The high energy of the laser beam contributes to the formation of contamination deposit on laser optics, leading to the degradation of the lidar performance and eventual failure of the instrument. This high energy requirement can partially or totally be offset by a larger telescope and / or a lower orbit, with the implication of a greater drag force acting on the satellite. This work investigates the options for satellite and lidar telescope configuration which minimise their contribution to drag while maximising the telescope aperture diameter for lidar performance. A MATLAB/Simulink trajectory model is developed to establish the propulsion requirements for drag compensation. Parametric models are used to size the satellite, its subsystem and the lidar. This study elaborates the conditions under which a lidar mission might work in a low altitude orbit. In particular, it explores the feasibility and applicability of four concepts against the requirements of some challenging lidar missions. The model developed also identifies that past studies may have under-estimated the electric propulsion requirements for lidar missions in low altitudes.

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