Determination of Atmospheric Density in Low-Earth Orbit Using GPS Data from the USNA Satellite
Trident Scholar Project rept. no. 308
NAVAL ACADEMY ANNAPOLIS MD DEPT OF AEROSPACE ENGINEERING
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The goal of this project was to use real-time data from the U.S. Naval Academys Prototype Communications Satellite PC-Sat to calculate atmospheric density in the satellites orbit over various time intervals. This involved using the latitude, longitude, altitude, and time data from a GPS receiver on board PC-Sat and transforming them into the orbiters classical orbital elements COEs. From these, the change in the size of the orbit can be determined via the change in the semi-major axis. Changes to the orbit are due primarily to the non-spherical Earth and the atmosphere. Therefore, by accounting for the change in semi-major axis due to the non-spherical Earth, the researcher can conclude that the remaining change is due solely to atmospheric density. The ability to determine atmospheric density in a specific orbit by knowing only the position of the satellite and few characteristics of the satellite itself will allow many small satellites with GPS receivers to contribute to the collection of data about the upper atmosphere. Being able to measure the Earths atmospheric density with increased accuracy will then allow satellite orbit and fuel usage predictions to be much more accurate and has the potential to lower the cost of missions. 6 tables, 25 figures, 17 refs.
- Atmospheric Physics
- Space Navigation and Guidance
- Unmanned Spacecraft