Nonlinear orbit uncertainty prediction and rectification for space situational awareness

DeMars, Kyle Jordan
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A new method for predicting the uncertainty in a nonlinear dynamical system is developed and analyzed in the context of uncertainty evolution for resident space objects (RSOs) in the near-geosynchronous orbit regime under the influence of central body gravitational acceleration, third body perturbations, and attitude-dependent solar radiation pressure (SRP) accelerations and torques. The new method, termed the splitting Gaussian mixture unscented Kalman filter (SGMUKF), exploits properties of the differential entropy or Renyi entropy for a linearized dynamical system to determine when a higher-order prediction of uncertainty reaches a level of disagreement with a first-order prediction, and then applies a multivariate Gaussian splitting algorithm to reduce the impact of induced nonlinearity. In order to address the relative accuracy of the new method with respect to the more traditional approaches of the extended Kalman filter (EKF) and unscented Kalman filter (UKF), several concepts regarding the comparison of probability density functions (pdfs) are introduced and utilized in the analysis.

The research also describes high-fidelity modeling of the nonlinear dynamical system which drives the motion of an RSO, and includes models for evaluation of the central body gravitational acceleration, the gravitational acceleration due to other celestial bodies, and attitude-dependent SRP accelerations and torques when employing a macro plate model of an RSO. Furthermore, a high-fidelity model of the measurement of the line-of-sight of a spacecraft from a ground station is presented, which applies light-time and stellar aberration corrections, and accounts for observer and target lighting conditions, as well as for the sensor field of view.

The developed algorithms are applied to the problem of forward predicting the time evolution of the region of uncertainty for RSO tracking, and uncertainty rectification via the fusion of incoming measurement data with prior knowledge. It is demonstrated that the SGMUKF method is significantly better able to forward predict the region of uncertainty and is subsequently better able to utilize new measurement data.