Further Developments in Orbit Ephemeris Derived Neutral Density
Locke, Travis Cole
University of Kansas
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There are a number of non-conservative forces acting on a satellite in low Earth orbit. The one which is the most dominant and also contains the most uncertainty is atmospheric drag. Atmospheric drag is directly proportional to atmospheric density, and the existing atmospheric density models do not accurately model the variations in atmospheric density. In this research, precision orbit ephemerides (POE) are used as input measurements in an optimal orbit determination scheme in order to estimate corrections to existing atmospheric density models. These estimated corrections improve the estimates of the drag experienced by a satellite and therefore provide an improvement in orbit determination and prediction as well as a better overall understanding of the Earth's upper atmosphere. The optimal orbit determination scheme used in this work includes using POE data as measurements in a sequential filter/smoother process using the Orbit Determination Tool Kit (ODTK) software. The POE derived density estimates are validated by comparing them with the densities derived from accelerometers on board the Challenging Minisatellite Payload (CHAMP) and the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). These accelerometer derived density data sets for both CHAMP and GRACE are available from Sean Bruinsma of the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES). The trend in the variation of atmospheric density is compared quantitatively by calculating the cross correlation (CC) between the POE derived density values and the accelerometer derived density values while the magnitudes of the two data sets are compared by calculating the root mean square (RMS) values between the two. There are certain high frequency density variations that are observed in the accelerometer derived density data but not in the POE derived density data or any of the baseline density models. These high frequency density variations are typically small in magnitude compared to the overall day-night variation. However during certain time periods, such as when the satellite is near the terminator, the variations are on the same order of magnitude as the diurnal variations. These variations can also be especially prevalent during geomagnetic storms and near the polar cusps. One of the goals of this work is to see what affect these unmodeled high frequency variations have on orbit propagation. In order to see this effect, the orbits of CHAMP and GRACE are propagated during certain time periods using different sources of density data as input measurements (accelerometer, POE, HASDM, and Jacchia 1971). The resulting orbit propagations are all compared to the propagation using the accelerometer derived density data which is used as truth. The RMS and the maximum difference between the different propagations are analyzed in order to see what effect the unmodeled density variations have on orbit propagation. These results are also binned by solar and geomagnetic activity level. The primary input into the orbit determination scheme used to produce the POE derived density estimates is a precision orbit ephemeris file. This file contains position and velocity in-formation for the satellite based on GPS and SLR measurements. The values contained in these files are estimated values and therefore contain some level of error, typically thought to be around the 5-10 cm level. The other primary focus of this work is to evaluate the effect of adding different levels of noise (0.1 m, 0.5 m, 1 m, 10 m, and 100 m) to this raw ephemeris data file before it is input into the orbit determination scheme. The resulting POE derived density estimates for each level of noise are then compared with the accelerometer derived densities by computing the CC and RMS values between the data sets. These results are also binned by solar and geomagnetic activity level.
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