On April 28, the University of Toronto team was awarded second place in SSPI and SEDS Canada’s 2018 student team competition. The competition, titled “Satellites Around Mars – What Will It Take?” challenged students to create a satellite communications capability to support colonization and early development of Mars, including both surface-to-space communications and Mars-to-Earth communications.

Advising the University of Toronto team was Ed Ashford, President of Ashford Aerospace Consulting. We thank him for generously donating time and expertise to the next generation.

In a report titled “Phase One Satellite Mars Constellation Proposal,” the University of Toronto team designed a small fleet of four aerosynchronous satellites in stationary mid-level orbit around the Martian equator. The satellite constellation would communicate with the Iridium satellite constellation on earth via RF transmission. The team chose orbital locations for the satellites to support 8 potential landing sites determined by NASA for future Mars rover missions. The constellation would be launched via the Falcon Heavy Launch vehicle in 2022 with a predicted arrival in 2023.

Figure: View of the orbital path for MarsSat1 (red), MarsSat2 (green), MarsSat3 (purple), and MarsSat4 (white)

In phase one of the University of Toronto team’s plan, the satellite constellation would provide 6 hours of continuous connectivity to Mars each day. The team modeled satellites for the constellation using AGI’s System Tool Kit and determined that a combination of Walker Delta and Rosette Satellite Constellations was ideal for deployment of their planned constellation. The design is intended to minimize costs by focusing coverage on the most likely sites to be used in the near future on Mars with the ability to integrate into a future phase 2 plan that would provide up to 23.5 hours per day of coverage.

Figure: Mercator Projection of Martian surface with 8 potential NASA landing sites, and the ground trace of MarsSat1 (red), MarsSat2 (green),
MarsSat3 (purple), and MarsSat4 (white)


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You can read the University of Toronto team’s full report here. See a full description of the Satellites Around Mars – What Will It Take? competition, conducted in partnership with SEDS Canada, the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.