A methodology for reduced order modeling and calibration of the upper atmosphere

Piyush M. Mehta, Richard Linares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Atmospheric drag is the largest source of uncertainty in accurately predicting the orbit of satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO). Accurately predicting drag for objects that traverse LEO is critical to space situational awareness. Atmospheric models used for orbital drag calculations can be characterized either as empirical or physics-based (first principles based). Empirical models are fast to evaluate but offer limited real-time predictive/forecasting ability, while physics based models offer greater predictive/forecasting ability but require dedicated parallel computational resources. Also, calibration with accurate data is required for either type of models. This paper presents a new methodology based on proper orthogonal decomposition toward development of a quasi-physical, predictive, reduced order model that combines the speed of empirical and the predictive/forecasting capabilities of physics-based models. The methodology is developed to reduce the high dimensionality of physics-based models while maintaining its capabilities. We develop the methodology using the Naval Research Lab's Mass Spectrometer Incoherent Scatter model and show that the diurnal and seasonal variations can be captured using a small number of modes and parameters. We also present calibration of the reduced order model using the CHAMP and GRACE accelerometer-derived densities. Results show that the method performs well for modeling and calibration of the upper atmosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1270-1287
Number of pages18
JournalSpace Weather
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

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©2017. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • density
  • dynamics
  • proper orthogonal decomposition
  • reduced order modeling
  • satellite drag
  • thermosphere


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