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SCIENCE CHINA Technological Sciences, Volume 61 , Issue 2 : 204-211(2018) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11431-016-9096-6

Atmospheric density determination using high-accuracy satellite GPS data

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  • ReceivedOct 25, 2016
  • AcceptedJul 12, 2017
  • PublishedJan 18, 2018

Abstract

Atmospheric drag is the main source of error in the determination and prediction of the orbit of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites; however, empirical models that are used to account for this often have density errors of around 15%–30%. Atmospheric density determination has thus become an important topic for researchers. Based on the relationship between the atmospheric drag force and the decay of the semi-major axis of the orbit, we derived atmospheric density along the trajectory of challenging mini-satellite payload (CHAMP) satellite with its rapid science orbit (RSO) data. Three primary parameters—the ratio of cross-sectional area to mass, the drag coefficient, and the decay of the semi-major axis caused by atmospheric drag—were calculated. We also analyse the source of the error and made a comparison between the GPS-derived and reference density. The result for December 2, 2008, showed that the mean error of the GPS-derived density could be decreased from 29.21% to 9.20%, if the time span adopted for the process of computation was increased from 10 min to 50 min. The result for the entire month of December indicated that a density precision of 10% could be achieved, when the time span meets the condition that the amplitude of the decay of the semi-major axis is much greater than its standard deviation.


Funded by

National High Technology Research and Development Program(2015AA7033102B)

State Key Laboratory of Aerospace Dynamics(2016ADL-DW0304)


Acknowledgment

This work was supported by the National High Technology Research and Development Program (Grant No. 2015AA7033102B) and the State Key Laboratory of Aerospace Dynamics (Grant No. 2016ADL-DW0304).


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  • Figure 1

    Example of cross-sectional area on December 21, 2008.

  • Figure 2

    (Color online) Three possible situations for the decay of the semi-major axis of CHAMP. Red lines are the linear fitting curve with the correction coefficient (denoted by cc) written above.

  • Figure 3

    Time series of CD of CHAMP (top panel) and GRACE-A (bottom panel) provided by the University of Colorado. The CD values are all greater than the common value of 2.1 or 2.2.

  • Figure 4

    Time series of altitude (black line) and change rate of semi-major axis caused by atmospheric drag (red line) for CHAMP on December 21, 2008. The change rate ranges from −2.5×10−4 to −1.0×10−3, so the mean value is −6.25×10−4, corresponding to the minimum time interval of about 48 min.

  • Figure 5

    Mean error of GPS-derived density (black lines) with respect to the reference value (red lines) under different time intervals. The mean error (ME) value is shown at the top left corner.

  • Figure 6

    Comparison of the mean error between the NRLMSISE-00 model (five black lines) and the GPS-derived (other five colored lines) density under different time intervals.

  • Table 1   value of CHAMP from year 2002 to 2008

    Year

    B

    2002

    4.67×10−3

    2003

    4.53×10−3

    2004

    4.40×10−3

    2005

    4.44×10−3

    2006

    4.69×10−3

    2007

    4.75×10−3

    2008

    4.88×10−3

  • Table 2   Primary characteristics of the ANDE twin satellites

    ANDE Castor

    ANDE Pollux

    Altitude

    350 km

    350 km

    Inclination

    51.6°

    51.6°

    Eccentricity

    0.0007

    0.0007

    Weight

    50 kg

    25 kg

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