Networked Distributed Pico-Satellite Systems for Earth Observation and Telecommunication Applications
A paradigm shift from single large, multifunctional satellites to cooperating groups of smaller satellites can be observed in Earth observation as well as in telecommunications. Another trend is to employ modern miniaturization techniques to realize satellites at continuously smaller masses, enabling a cost-efficient realization of systems composed of multiple satellites. Such distributed satellite systems carrying coordinated heterogeneous sensors rise challenges with respect to an efficient implementation of the flow of information and its storage, as well as for optimal control strategies regarding position and attitude. In Earth observation, the innovation potential by employing a distributed network of satellites is obvious in order to provide higher temporal resolution in observation data and to achieve higher availability. Especially in emergency, surveillance and observation tasks, such robust capabilities are important. In case of telecommunications, networks of small satellites in low Earth orbits can offer a cost-efficient approach for robust communication links at low bandwidth.