Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Aerospace Engineering Sciences

First Advisor

Penina Axelrad

Second Advisor

George H. Born

Third Advisor

Brandon A. Jones

Fourth Advisor

Webster Cash

Fifth Advisor

Daniel J. Scheeres

Abstract

Motivated by the growing space catalog and the demands for precise orbit determination with shorter latency for science and reconnaissance missions, this research improves the computational performance of orbit propagation through more efficient and precise numerical integration and frame transformation implementations. Propagation of satellite orbits is required for astrodynamics applications including mission design, orbit determination in support of operations and payload data analysis, and conjunction assessment. Each of these applications has somewhat different requirements in terms of accuracy, precision, latency, and computational load. This dissertation develops procedures to achieve various levels of accuracy while minimizing computational cost for diverse orbit determination applications. This is done by addressing two aspects of orbit determination: (1) numerical integration used for orbit propagation and (2) precise frame transformations necessary for force model evaluation and station coordinate rotations.

This dissertation describes a recently developed method for numerical integration, dubbed Bandlimited Collocation Implicit Runge-Kutta (BLC-IRK), and compare its efficiency in propagating orbits to existing techniques commonly used in astrodynamics. The BLC-IRK scheme uses generalized Gaussian quadratures for bandlimited functions. It requires significantly fewer force function evaluations than explicit Runge-Kutta schemes and approaches the efficiency of the 8th-order Gauss-Jackson multistep method.

Converting between the Geocentric Celestial Reference System (GCRS) and International Terrestrial Reference System (ITRS) is necessary for many applications in astrodynamics, such as orbit propagation, orbit determination, and analyzing geoscience data from satellite missions. This dissertation provides simplifications to the Celestial Intermediate Origin (CIO) transformation scheme and Earth orientation parameter (EOP) storage for use in positioning and orbit propagation, yielding savings in computation time and memory. Orbit propagation and position transformation simulations are analyzed to generate a complete set of recommendations for performing the ITRS/GCRS transformation for a wide range of needs, encompassing real-time on-board satellite operations and precise post-processing applications. In addition, a complete derivation of the ITRS/GCRS frame transformation time-derivative is detailed for use in velocity transformations between the GCRS and ITRS and is applied to orbit propagation in the rotating ITRS.

EOP interpolation methods and ocean tide corrections are shown to impact the ITRS/GCRS transformation accuracy at the level of 5 cm and 20 cm on the surface of the Earth and at the Global Positioning System (GPS) altitude, respectively. The precession-nutation and EOP simplifications yield maximum propagation errors of approximately 2 cm and 1 m after 15 minutes and 6 hours in low-Earth orbit (LEO), respectively, while reducing computation time and memory usage. Finally, for orbit propagation in the ITRS, a simplified scheme is demonstrated that yields propagation errors under 5 cm after 15 minutes in LEO. This approach is beneficial for orbit determination based on GPS measurements.

We conclude with a summary of recommendations on EOP usage and bias-precession-nutation implementations for achieving a wide range of transformation and propagation accuracies at several altitudes. This comprehensive set of recommendations allows satellite operators, astrodynamicists, and scientists to make informed decisions when choosing the best implementation for their application, balancing accuracy and computational complexity.

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