Swarm Satellites: Design, Characteristics and Applications

Steven Engelen

Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

32 Downloads (Pure)


Satellite swarms are a novelty, yet promise to deliver unprecedented robustness and data-collection efficiency. They are so new in fact that even the definition of what a satellite swarm is is disputable, and consequently, the term "swarm" is used for practically any type of distributed space architecture. This thesis poses the proposed definition of a satellite swarm as "a space system consisting of many egalitarian,. spacecraft, cooperating to achieve a common global ,. goal".
Methods for designing such swarms are proposed and analysed, as well as the purported robustness and reliability commonly associated with swarms. The investigations show that, like with many systems, it is possible to create a swarm that is less reliable than even a single satellite, yet it is also possible to create one that is more reliable. However, this requires a paradigm shift, as in order to achieve this goal, a satellite swarm's satellites should be built as simple as possible, and this implies without internally redundant systems. The OLFA'R (Orbiting Low Frequency Antennas for Radio astronomy) mission, studying astronomical phenomena at low frequencies* has been used as a test case throughout the thesis, and various technological hurdles required for achieving the OLFAR mission are investigated and solved. This shows that while the OLFAR swarm itself is still slightly beyond current-day technologies, it is not as far out as originally thought, and it could well serve as a prime example of a mission for which a satellite swarm not only would be beneficial, but almost imperative.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Delft University of Technology
  • Gill, E.K.A., Supervisor
  • Verhoeven, C.J.M., Advisor
Award date3 Nov 2016
Print ISBNs978-94-028-0412-6
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Swarm satellites
  • miniaturisation
  • reliability
  • nano-satellites
  • distiibuted space systems


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