Precise orbit determination and analysis from satellite altimetry and laser ranging

  • Derek A. Rothwell

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    For optimum utilization of satellite-borne instrumentation, it is necessary to know precisely the orbital position of the spacecraft. The aim of this thesis is therefore two-fold - firstly to derive precise orbits with particular emphasis placed on the altimetric satellite SEASAT and secondly, to utilize the precise orbits, to improve upon atmospheric density determinations for satellite drag modelling purposes. Part one of the thesis, on precise orbit determinations, is particularly concerned with the tracking data - satellite laser ranging, altimetry and crossover height differences - and how this data can be used to analyse errors in the orbit, the geoid and sea-surface topography. The outcome of this analysis is the determination of a low degree and order model for sea surface topography. Part two, on the other hand, mainly concentrates on using the laser data to analyse and improve upon current atmospheric density models. In particular, the modelling of density changes associated with geomagnetic disturbances comes under scrutiny in this section. By introducing persistence modelling of a geomagnetic event and solving for certain geomagnetic parameters, a new density model is derived which performs significantly better than the state-of-the-art models over periods of severe geomagnetic storms at SEASAT heights. This is independently verified by application of the derived model to STARLETTE orbit determinations.
    Date of Award1989
    Original languageEnglish


    • Precise orbit determination
    • analysis
    • satellite altimetry
    • laser ranging

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