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AEROVEL: Aerodrag Estimation for Very Low Earth Orbits



Organisational Unit
Activity Type
08 April 2024

Duration: 12 months


Aerodrag is a dominant force acting on spacecraft operating in Very Low Earth orbit (VLEO). Accurately measuring aerodrag is essential for precise orbit determination and orbit control, consequently, precise attitude determination, better collision avoidance, and longer life missions. Conventional methods for aerodrag estimation rely on GPS measurements or onboard models, which can be unreliable or inaccurate due to environmental factors, such as atmospheric disturbances or ionospheric scintillation. This proposal suggests the adoption of density sensors to directly measure atmospheric density or very closely related parameters, enabling a more robust approach for aerodrag estimation and control. Pressure / Force sensors (such as Piezoelectric sensors), Temperature Sensors (Pirani gauges , thermocouple), and mass spectrometers analyze the mass and abundance of gas atoms and molecules. Each technique offers unique advantages and disadvantages, making the selection of the most appropriate sensor dependent on specific mission requirements. The suitability of these sensors for VLEO applications will be assessed further and a trade-off will be made between individual and combination of these sensors to support improved drag estimation for VLEO missions. The activity will perform simulation of the suitability of these sensors and make a proposal for future work.

Contract number
OSIP Idea Id
Related OSIP Campaign
VLEO - New ideas for the nearest of outer space
Main application area
AEROVEL: Aerodrag Estimation for Very Low Earth Orbits