Different implementations of diffuse reflection with incomplete accommodation for drag coefficient modeling

Andrew Walker, Piyush Mehta, Josef Koller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Diffuse reflection with incomplete accommodation is the favored gas-surface interaction model for calculating the drag coefficient of satellites in low Earth orbit, where drag is the largest source of uncertainty in the orbital trajectory of satellites. Closed-form solutions have incorporated the variation of the energy accommodation coefficient through equating the total energy of the incident and reflected flows; however, this leads to an incorrect reflected velocity distribution for incomplete accommodation. The problem is highlighted by investigating the velocity distribution functions for a gas reflected from a flat plate at zero accommodation.Aphysically accurate implementation for diffuse reflection with incomplete accommodation based on the Cercignani-Lampis-Lord gas-surface interaction model is compared with the closed-form solutions that equate the incident and reflected energy of the flow. The Cercignani-Lampis-Lord gas-surface interaction model shows the conservation of energy on a molecule-by-molecule basis for zero accommodation, as expected, whereas the closed-form method only conserves energy on average. The macroscopic effect of the different velocity distributions manifests in differences of ∼1.8-2.5% in the drag coefficient of a flat plate, sphere, and the GRACE satellite at zero accommodation and differences larger than 1% for energy accommodation coefficients less than 0.90.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1522-1532
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this work was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy through the Los Alamos National Laboratory/Laboratory Directed Research and Development program as part of the Integrated Modeling of Perturbations in Atmospheres for Conjunction Tracking project.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2013 by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc. All rights reserved.


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