Navigations- und Kommunikationstechnologien für Kleinsatellitenformationen

Project Description

The use of satellite networks to meet important space based applications is an emerging and trend setting subject. Until now the value of such networks has been shown through constellations such as GPS and GLONASS in the field of navigation and Iridium in the field of telecommunication. Less known are examples of formation flights with couple of satellites to fulfill a common mission goal. The pair of EO1 and Landsat 7 and the twin GRACE satellites have provided us with valuable results for the research and everyday life. High spatial and temporal resolutions and better reliability are some of the benefits of a space borne systems with multiple satellites. These systems are made up of large satellites subject to long development time and expensive budget. In a paradigm shift due to faster development time, lower costs and higher availability certain areas of space applications are paving way for system of smaller satellites. This moves away from individual large satellites to systems of many small offering exciting research and economic prospects. This is precisely the direction in which project NaKoFo is aligned, with the ultimate goal to realize system of small satellites flying in formation to achieve a common mission objective.

The NaKoFo feasibility study is the preparatory step in this direction. It is essential for the satellites in a formation to be aware of their orbital positions. This is implemented using relative navigation aids. The position data is shared among the other satellites for situational awareness to maintain the formation requiring an efficient inter-satellite communication link. Thus feasibility study assesses the navigation and communication technologies for small satellites in terms of its implementation options and the expected technological developments. The emphasis is on testing the technologies and challenges that are necessary for the successful implementation of satellite formation flight. The feasibility study also undertook an extensive orbit and perturbation analysis for small satellites to understand their relative range variation and drift motion. Such a study benefitted us in getting heads up for investigating velocity change requirements for orbit maneuvering and available technologies for small propulsion systems. Finally, the study examined the challenge to get together the necessary components and techniques for relative navigation and inter-satellite communication subsystem within the restrictions of small satellites.

The successful culmination of feasibility study has allowed us to focus further on realization of communication and relative navigation subsystems and their successful evaluation on-board the aircrafts in a demonstration mission.


Lehrstuhl für Informatik VIIZentrum für Telematik e.V.
Robotik und
Prof. Dr. Klaus Schilling


The project activities are actively funded and supported by the Bavarian ministry for economic affairs, infrastructure, transport and technology.