Modeling satellite drag coefficients with response surfaces

Piyush M. Mehta, Andrew Walker, Earl Lawrence, Richard Linares, David Higdon, Josef Koller

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


Satellite drag coefficients are a major source of uncertainty in predicting the drag force on satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO). Among other things, accurately predicting the orbit requires detailed knowledge of the satellite drag coefficient. Computational methods are important tools in computing the drag coefficient but are too intensive for real-time predictions. Therefore, analytic or empirical models that can accurately predict drag coefficients are desired. This work uses response surfaces to model drag coefficients. The response surface methodology is validated by developing a response surface model for the drag coefficient of a sphere. The response surface model performs well in predicting the drag coefficient of a sphere with a root mean square error less than 0.3% over the entire parameter space. For more complex geometries, such as the GRACE satellite, the model error is only slightly larger with an error less than 0.7%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAstrodynamics 2013 - Advances in the Astronautical Sciences
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference
PublisherUnivelt Inc.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9780877036050
StatePublished - 2014
Event2013 AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, Astrodynamics 2013 - Hilton Head Island, SC, United States
Duration: Aug 11 2013Aug 15 2013

Publication series

NameAdvances in the Astronautical Sciences
ISSN (Print)0065-3438


Other2013 AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, Astrodynamics 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityHilton Head Island, SC

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this work was provided by the US Department of Energy through the Los Alamos National Laboratory/Laboratory Directed Research and Development program as part of the IMPACT (Integrated Modeling of Perturbations in Atmospheres for Conjunction Tracking) project. The authors would also like to thank the Los Alamos National Laboratory Institutional Computing for the computational resources utilized for the simulations. The authors would also like to thank UCAR for providing the CDAAC precise orbit data.


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