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Analysis of the de-orbiting and re-entry of space objects with high area to mass ratio

Vasile, Massimiliano and Minisci, Edmondo and Serra, Romain and Beck, James and Holbrough, Ian (2016) Analysis of the de-orbiting and re-entry of space objects with high area to mass ratio. In: AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2016. AIAA Space Forum . American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA, Reston. ISBN 9781624104459

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    This paper presents a preliminary analysis of the de-orbiting and re-entry dynamics of space objects with a large area to mass ratio. Two different classes of objects are considered: fragments of satellites (like solar panels and pieces of thermal blankets) and complete nano-satellites with passive de-orbiting devices like a drag sail. Different sources of uncertainty are considered including atmospheric density variability with latitude and solar cycles, aerodynamic properties of the object, light pressure, initial conditions. The coupling of the uncertainty in the aerodynamic forces and attitude motion is investigated to understand if low fidelity three degrees of freedom models can be used in place of more expensive high fidelity models to make predictions on the re-entry time. Modern uncertainty propagation and quantification tools are used to assess the effect of uncertainty on the re-entry time and study the dependency on a number of key parameters.