Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Analysis of a novel approach for determining atmospheric density from satellite drag
by Pilinski, M. D., M.S., University of Colorado at Boulder, 2008, 150; 1456688
Abstract (Summary)

The dynamics and modeling of the thermosphere has been of great interest to scientists and LEO spacecraft operators since the first earth satellites were constructed. Although a great deal of data has been accumulated regarding the average conditions, or climate, of the atmosphere in this region, at the time of writing, much ongoing work remains to be done to verify or characterize crucial transient phenomena such as tides and propagating disturbances [Bruinsma 2006]. The contribution of often unmeasured in-track winds and the use of constant drag coefficients in spacecraft drag measurements [Bowman and Moe 2005] has introduced 10-15% errors into the atmospheric models which rely on this data as a source of density values. To address these in-situ measurement issues, a novel method of drag determination is proposed, modeled, and combined with a wind measurement method as well as a numerical tool for calculating the coefficient of drag of complex geometries. This analysis and error model will be applied to the Drag and Atmospheric Neutral Density Explorer (DANDE) and its instruments. DANDE is a satellite being developed at the University of Colorado and will be a low earth orbiting spacecraft with the capability to study in-situ winds, composition, and density.

A method is presented here which will serve as an error analysis of the measurements and which can be extended to other in-situ missions with similar instruments. This will include the modeling of the spacecraft and its sensors, the input from the ambient environment, on-board data analysis, and gas-surface interactions causing the measured forces on the spacecraft.

In the course of the analysis, it is demonstrated that DANDE will meet its required drag measurement fidelities. We also show how the presence of solar cells (raised features) on the spherical spacecraft changes the drag coefficient and calculate the overall uncertainty during solar maximum and solar minimum conditions.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Palo, Scott
Commitee: Forbes, Jeffrey, Fuller-Rowell, Tim
School: University of Colorado at Boulder
Department: Aerospace Engineering
School Location: United States -- Colorado
Source: MAI 47/01M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Aerospace materials, Atmosphere
Keywords: Accelerometer, Drag coefficient, Measurement model, Neutral density
Publication Number: 1456688
ISBN: 9780549714224
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