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Quasi-satellite phenomenon

Title: Quasi-satellite dynamics in formation flight
Author: Seppo Mikkola, Claudiu-Lucian Prioroc

The quasi-satellite (QS) phenomenon makes two celestial bodies to fly near each other (Mikkola et al. 2006) and that effect can be used also to make artificial satellites move in tandem. We consider formation flight of two or three satellites in low eccentricity near Earth orbits. With the help of weak ion thrusters it is possible to accomplish tandem flight. With ion thrusters it is also possible to mimic many kinds of mutual force laws between the satellites. We found that both a constant repulsive force or an attractive force that decreases with the distance are able to preserve the formation in which the eccentricities cause the actual relative motion and the weak thrusters keep the mean longitude difference small. Initial values are important for the formation flight but very exact adjustment of orbital elements is not important. Simplicity is one of our goals in this study and this result is achieved at least in the way that, when constant force thrusters are used, the satellites only need to detect the directions of the other ones to fly in tandem. A repulsive acceleration of the order of 10^-6 times the Earth attraction, is enough to effectively eliminate the disruptive effects of all the perturbations at least for a timescale of years.

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