Scheduling Support Times for Satellites with Overlapping Visibilities
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We consider the scheduling of ground station support times to low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites with overlapping visibilities. LEO satellites typically complete a revolution around the Earth in less than four hours at an altitude of a few hundred miles and are part of the critical infrastructure for natural resource management, crop yield estimation, meteorology, flood control, communication, and space research. Because these satellites are quite expensive to launch and operate, utilizing them in the best possible manner is of paramount importance for the agencies that own them. A ground station provides support time to a satellite to perform a variety of tasks when the satellite is visible to the station over a prespecified planning horizon; the payoff from providing such support is a function of the support time. When two or more satellites pass over the ground station, their visibility time windows may overlap. Thus, under overlapping visibilities, a relevant problem is that of scheduling ground station support time for each satellite with the objective of maximizing the total utility generated from supporting the satellites. We propose four basic scheduling models to address a variety of scenarios and investigate their computational complexities. For each model, we also identify special cases that are polynomially solvable. 2008 Production and Operations Management Society.