Optimal cooperative and non-cooperative peer-to-peer maneuvers for refueling satellites in circular constellations
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On-orbit servicing (OOS) of space systems provides immense benefits by extending their lifetime, by reducing overall cost of space operations, and by adding flexibility to space missions. Refueling is an important aspect of OOS operations. The problem of determining the optimal strategy of refueling multiple satellites in a constellation, by expending minimum fuel during the orbital transfers, is challenging, and requires the solution of a large-scale optimization problem. The conventional notion about a refueling mission is to have a service vehicle visit all fuel-deficient satellites one by one and deliver fuel to them. A recently emerged concept, known as the peer-to-peer (P2P) strategy, is a distributed method of replenishing satellites with fuel. P2P strategy is an integral part of a mixed refueling strategy, in which a service vehicle delivers fuel to part (perhaps half) of the satellites in the constellation, and these satellites, in turn, engage in P2P maneuvers with the remaining satellites. During a P2P maneuver between a fuel-sufficient and a fuel-deficient satellite, one of them performs an orbital transfer to rendezvous with the other, exchanges fuel, and then returns back to its original orbital position. In terms of fuel expended during the refueling process, the mixed strategy outperforms the single service vehicle strategy, particularly with increasing number of satellites in the constellation. This dissertation looks at the problem of P2P refueling problem and proposes new extensions like the Cooperative P2P and Egalitarian P2P strategies. It presents an overview of the methodologies developed to determine the optimal set of orbital transfers required for cooperative and non-cooperative P2P refueling strategies. Results demonstrate that the proposed strategies help in reducing fuel expenditure during the refueling process.