Space situational awareness and general perturbations methods for orbit propagation

Wed 8th May 2019 @14:15 PM, level 7, David Caro Building
Dr Emma Kerr RMIT

Email:  emma.kerr[at]


The problem posed by space debris has been internationally recognised and many different methods tackling both mitigation and remediation have been proposed. One fundamental challenge though is accurate tracking and position prediction of objects in orbit. Beyond improving technology, the only method for tackling this challenge is in improving orbit propagation method. Orbit propagation allows a user to predict where an object will be in the future given its current position. This research focusses on improving general perturbations methods for orbit propagation. General perturbations methods for orbit propagation are typically considered to be less accurate and/or less useful than their numerical counterparts. The major problem facing these methods in terms of accuracy is that it is very difficult to capture time dependant phenomena such as the solar activity cycle’s effect on atmospheric density in a general perturbation solution. To date very little research on this topic has been published, as computers became more powerful it became less important to study such methods. However, as space debris has become such a prevalent issue, threatening the safety of both current and future missions, it has once again become prudent to look at methods that can allow the propagation of a large catalogue of objects in as computationally inexpensive way as possible.