Mission and system architecture for an operational network of earth observation satellite nodes

S. Tonetti, S. Cornara, G. Vicario de Miguel, S. Pierotti, J. Cote, C. Araguz, E. Alarcón, A. Camps, D. Llaveria, E. Lancheros, J. A. Ruiz-de-Azua, E. Bou-Balust, P. Rodríguez, M. Sochacki, J. Narkiewicz, A. Golkar, I. Lluch i Cruz, H. Matevosyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Nowadays, constellations and distributed networks of satellites are emerging as clear development trends in the space system market to enable augmentation, enhancement, and possibilities of new applications for future Earth Observation (EO) missions. While the adoption of these satellite architectures is gaining momentum for the attaining of ever more stringent application requirements and stakeholder needs, the efforts to analyze their benefits and suitability, and to assess their impact for future programmes remains as an open challenge to the EO community. In this context, this paper presents the mission and system architecture conceived during the Horizon 2020 ONION project, a European Union research activity that proposes a systematic approach to the optimization of EO space infrastructures. In particular, ONION addressed the design of complementary assets that progressively supplement current programs and took part in the exploration of needs and implementation of architectures for the Copernicus Space Component for EO. Among several use cases considered, the ONION project focused on proposing system architectures to provide improved revisit time, data latency and image resolution for a demanding application scenario of interest: Marine Weather Forecast (MWF). A set of promising system architectures has been subject of a comprehensive assessment, based on mission analysis expertise and detailed simulation for evaluating several key parameters such as revisit time and data latency of each measurement of interest, on-board memory evolution and power budget of each satellite of the constellation, ground station contacts and inter-satellite links. The architectures are built with several heterogeneous satellite nodes distributed in different orbital planes. Each platform can embark different instrument sets, which provide the required measurements for each use case. A detailed mission analysis has then been performed to the selected architecture for the MWF use case, including a refined data flow analysis to optimize system resources; a refined power budget analysis; a delta-V and a fuel budget analysis considering all the possible phases of the mission. This includes from the correction of launcher injection errors and acquisition of nominal satellite position inside the constellation, orbit maintenance to control altitude, collision avoidance to avoid collision with space debris objects and end-of-life (EOL) disposal to comply with EOL guidelines. The relevance of the system architecture selected for the MWF has been evaluated for three use cases of interest (Arctic sea-ice monitoring, maritime fishery pressure and aquaculture, agricultural hydric stress) to show the versatility and the feasibility of the chosen architecture to be adapted for other EO applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-412
Number of pages15
JournalActa Astronautica
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • Constellation
  • Earth observation
  • Federated satellite systems
  • Marine weather forecast
  • Mission architecture
  • Small satellites
  • System architecture


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