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Can We Estimate Air Density of the Thermosphere with CubeSats?

Garcia, Raphaël F. and Sibbing, Zimo and Van Camp, Adriaen Can We Estimate Air Density of the Thermosphere with CubeSats? (2019) Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, 56 (4). 1084-1091. ISSN 0022-4650

(Document in English)

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.2514/1.A34324


The measurement of air density in the Earth’s thermosphere has a wide range of scientific applications from space weather to upper atmosphere dynamics, but also technical applications from satellite control to predictions of atmospheric reentry of space debris. This study models the torques applying on a three-unit CubeSat in low Earth orbit to infer the capability of such platforms to measure the air density along their orbit. Realistic noise levels of available CubeSat components are used, and sensitivity to the various noise sources is presented. The precise knowledge of the spacecraft attitude, angular acceleration, residual magnetic dipole, and center of gravity is critical to allow proper air density retrieval. Winds in the thermosphere also have a significant impact on the thermosphere density retrieval, suggesting that this parameter can also be constrained. Attitude control is not necessary if the attitude itself is properly known. The application to the EntrySat CubeSat predicts that such retrieval is possible at altitudes lower than 200 km with errors lower than 30%. The air density retrieval from CubeSat platforms will open new capabilities to infer upper atmosphere dynamics.

Item Type:Article
HAL Id:hal-02154979
Audience (journal):International peer-reviewed journal
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Institution:Université de Toulouse > Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace - ISAE-SUPAERO (FRANCE)
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Deposited On:14 Mar 2019 11:07

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