Mission Analysis

The Mission Analysis team handles not only topics concerning celestial mechanics but also aspects about satellite design and operations.

Celestial mechanics actions involve:

  • simulation of satellite position on the orbit
  • maneuver planning and optimizations to maximize the efficient use of available propellant
  • emergency maneuver planning in the case of a collision track with another space object

The design and operational part consist of:

  • verification of the objectives of the on-orbit missions
  • selection of a suitable launcher, launch window, and launch service provider
  • analysis of the satellite’s visibility with ground stations
  • calculation of eclipse duration and insolation for PW-Sata3
  • analysis of risks associated with the space environment 
  • calculations within the framework of the anticipated entry of the satellite into the Earth’s atmosphere (so-called orbit lifetime)

To analyze the mission, FreeFlyer software from is used to control the satellite while it’s on orbit. The tool is used by NASA, the US Air Force, and the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC). The software provides many options for maneuver planning and orbit simulation. 

In addition to space debris, solar activity, which during the mission will be the highest since the beginning of measurements, also is a significant threat. Increased cosmic radiation affects the operation of electronic systems on the satellite. The effect of radiation can permanently damage them or knock charges out of transistors or memory. Errors generated by such events are problematic to detect, so the design process should take into account the expected solar activity for the satellite’s operational period.

The main goal of the PW-Sat3 mission is to perform experiments for the original propulsion system. As part of the engine testing, the satellite will perform maneuvers.

The maneuvers are planned to demonstrate the practical use of the engine, i.e. the possibility of faster deorbit, which reduces the time the satellite stays in orbit after the mission and at the same time the risk of space debris. Even at the time of writing this article, they are a very large limitation and danger to any space operations.

The target orbit is a circular and solar-synchronized orbit, lower than 600 km. Sun-synchronized provides regular communication windows and repeatable insolation to guarantee the thermal stability of the satellite, which facilitates, among other things, the design of the thermal subsystem. The orbit height is also required by international standards established by the IADC (Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee), as it guarantees a deorbit time of no more than 25 years. In the case of the Pw-Sat3 mission, this period will be much shorter because deorbit maneuvers will be performed.