A general perturbations method for spacecraft lifetime analysis

Kerr, Emma and Macdonald, Malcolm (2015) A general perturbations method for spacecraft lifetime analysis. In: 25th AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting, 2015-01-11 - 2015-01-15.

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An analytical atmospheric density model, including solar activity effects, is applied to an analytical spacecraft trajectory model for use in orbit decay analysis. Previously presented theory is developed into an engineering solution for practical use, whilst also providing the first step towards validation. The model is found to have an average error of 3.46% with standard deviation 3.25% when compared with historical data. The method is compared to other analytical solutions and AGI’s Systems Toolkit software, STK. STK provided the second best results, with an average error of 11.39% and standard deviation 10.69%. The developed method allows users to perform rapid Monte-Carlo analysis of the problem, such as varying launch date, initial orbit, spacecraft characteristics, and so forth, in fractions of a second. This method could be used in many practical applications such as in initial mission design to analyze the effects of changes in parameters such as mass or drag coefficient on the lifetime of the mission. The method could also be used to ensure regulatory compliance with the 25-year end-of-life removal period set out by debris guidelines.