Global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) are widely used in low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite navigation; however, their availability is poor for users in medium Earth orbits (MEO), and high Earth orbits (HEO). With the increasing demand for navigation from MEO and HEO users, the inadequate coverage of GNSS has emerged. Inter-satellite links (ISLs) are used for ranging and communication between navigation satellites and can also serve space users that are outside the navigation constellation. This paper aims to summarize their application method and analyze their service performance. The mathematical model of visibility is proposed and then the availability of time division ISLs is analyzed based on global grid points. The BeiDou navigation constellation is used as an example for numerical simulation. Simulation results show that the availability can be enhanced by scheduling more satellites and larger beams, while the presence of more users lowers the availability. The availability of navigation signals will be strengthened when combined with the signals from the ISLs. ISLs can improve the space service volume (SSV) of navigation constellations, and are therefore a promising method for navigation in MEO/HEO spacecraft.
Tang, Y., Wang, Y., & Chen, J. (2016). The availability of space service for inter-satellite links in navigation constellations. Sensors (Switzerland), 16(8). https://doi.org/10.3390/s16081327