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A New Orbital Analyst Tool for Associating Un-cataloged Analyst Debris with Historical Launches, Breakups, and Anomalous Events

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Conference paper

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A suite of astrodynamic software tools has been developed for associating un-catalogued analyst satellite debris with historical launches, breakups, and anomalous events. A semi-analytical orbit integrator is at the heart of the tool suite. To associate currently tracked analyst debris with events occurring over 30 to 45 years ago requires an orbit integrator that predicts orbit plane ascending node values accurately, with errors no more than a few degrees over thousands of degrees of node precession. Such an integrator, SGPE Special General Perturbations Ephemeris, has been developed and proven to be extremely accurate. Orbit perturbations that are included in the tool are daily atmospheric density corrections, atmospheric rotation variations, high-order lunisolar gravitational effects, earth tidal effects, solar radiation pressure perturbations, and high-order geopotential zonal contributions. All these perturbations are computed with analytical equations evaluated on a half-day increment to achieve a very fast semi-analytical integrator. Also part of the tool suite is a non-linear least squares software package used to determine average ballistic coefficient values obtained from using years of mean element semi-major axis values. Once the B value has been fitted the SGPE integrator is used to integrate backwards from epoch to 1958, generating an ephemeris of mean element sets every 5 days. These elements are then compared with mean elements from every launch and breakup since the 1960s. Probabilities of possible associations are computed from tables based on over 550 validation cases using historical mean elements from catalogued debris. Associations of hundreds of analyst satellite debris with historical events have already been identified, and cataloging of the analyst satellites is currently underway. Examples are shown of breakup associations, and of associating currently tracked debris with previously lost satellites.

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  • Computer Programming and Software
  • Unmanned Spacecraft

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