Proba-3 is the third in ESA’s series of missions for validating developments in space systems, and is aimed at demonstrating the technologies required for formation flying of multiple spacecraft. This mission is composed by two small (meter-scale) spacecrafts in Earth orbit that will create artificial solar eclipses for six hours during each orbit, allowing us to study Sun’s immediate vicinity.
From Spain, we have been responsible for mission analysis activities since early design stages until current industrial development phase and up to launch (foreseen at mid – 2022 aboard an Indian PSLV launcher) and mission operation support. In addition to the usual analyses on ground station contact, eclipses, radiation and collision avoidance, the satellite high elliptic orbit has been optimized to guarantee 2.5 years lifetime without requiring any control and a manoeuvre-free de-orbiting in 25 years exploiting the luni-solar perturbations.
The Proba-3 mission offers a unique opportunity to test technologies, including to perform Relative Dynamics Experiments (RDE).
The Proba-3 RendezVous eXperiment (P3RVX) takes advantage of this opportunity to exploit the suitability of Proba-3 for the maturation of RV technology, in particular with non-cooperative targets, with two satellites, in a highly elliptical orbit (perigee and apogee height of 600 and 60,530 km, respectively), using optical Navigation.
The P3RVX consortium is led from Portugal by us and includes the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and University Politehnica of Bucharest/Institute of Space Sciences (UPB/ISS).
The P3RVX aims to perform in-orbit demonstrations of the Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) subsystem (including the Failure Detection, Isolation, and Recovery (FDIR) functions), the flight operations, the autonomy approach, and the Verification and Validation (VV), for missions in highly-elliptical orbits with fast and time-varying dynamics.
From Romania, we carried out the intermediate and final definition of Ground Segment and Operations (command principles and procedures, platform and experiment monitoring plan, data extraction plan, telemetry and telecommands, definition of procedures), and the main outcomes of activity are the on-ground and in-flight calibration plans for RVX, and the integration of the RVX flight plan into the operational procedures.