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Efficient special perturbation techniques for orbital lifetime predictions

Research Areas
  • Space technology

Efficiency in the propagation of a large number of initial conditions over long time spans drives the requirements for space debris orbit propagation techniques. This need arises quite naturally in the simulation of large debris populations for evolutionary studies, but also long-term orbital lifetime predictions often need massive propagations to draw physically meaningful conclusions. For instance, a Monte Carlo approach is mandatory to make up for uncertainties in the physical characteristics of the atmosphere and spacecraft, or to sample a limited space of initial conditions when chaotic dynamics in long-term propagations are known to ensue. Analytical and semi-analytical methods offer reasonable accuracy for a low computational cost when all the main dynamical phenomena occurring in a specific problem are correctly taken into account. Yet, if knowledge of the underlying dynamics might be incomplete or for purposes of verification of these methods in challenging scenarios one must resort to a special perturbations method. Such a method has to be accurate enough to generate reliable reference solutions, and to provide them in a reasonable time. Integrations of the equations of motion of a set of non-singular orbital elements have already shown superior efficiency compared to those performed in Cartesian coordinates, besides lightening the burden on numerical integration schemes. The Dromo family of regularized element methods, based on a special perturbations method originally developed for the propagation of space tethers [1], has excelled in these aspects in a variety of test cases [2]. In this work, firstly we expand the applicability of the Dromo methods by describing the implementation of a physical model with an m-by-n gravitational potential and atmospheric drag from a time-dependent atmosphere. Furthermore, we assess the performance of these methods compared with the direct integration of the Newtonian equations and with available semi-analytical codes. The comparison is done by using the aforementioned physical model in the propagation of test cases representative of HEO and MEO orbits. For the direct numerical integrations, we employ a multistep integrator with variable step size and order which uses the Adams-Bashforth-Moulton numerical scheme and backwards differences formulas [3]. In order to measure the accuracy of the methods, we compute the error in the estimated lifetime with respect to a reference solution and we compare the calculated trajectories with those obtained from processing historical TLE data of real objects.
Second Stardust Global Virtual Workshop
University of Southampton, Southampton, Inglaterra, Reino Unido
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Research Group, Departaments and Institutes related
  • Creador: Grupo de Investigación: Dinámica Espacial (SDG-UPM)
  • Departamento: Física Aplicada a Las Ingenierías Aeronáutica y Naval