Velocity-based initial orbit determination

Hollenberg, Courtney
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Christian, John
Anderson, Kurt S.
Hicken, Jason
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Aeronautical engineering
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Classical techniques for initial orbit determination (IOD) require the analyst to find a body's orbit given only observations such as bearings, range, and/or position. In these cases, one of the goals is often to solve for the unknown velocity vector at one or more of the observation times to fully define the orbit. Recently, however, a new class of IOD problems has been proposed that switches the knowns and unknowns in these classic IOD problems. Specifically, the objective is to find the unknown position vectors given only velocity measurements. This paper presents a detailed assessment of the geometric properties of this new family of velocity-only IOD problems. The primary tool for this geometric analysis is Hamilton's orbital hodograph, which is known to be a perfect circle for all orbits obeying Keplerian dynamics. This framework is used to produce intuitive and efficient algorithms for IOD from three velocity vectors (similar structure to Gibbs problem) and for IOD from two velocity vectors and time-of-flight (similar structure to Lambert's problem). Performance of these algorithms is demonstrated through numerical results.
December 2019
School of Engineering
Dept. of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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