Preliminary orbits with line-of-sight correction for LEO satellites observed with radar

  • H. Ma
  • G. BaùEmail author
  • D. Bracali Cioci
  • G. F. Gronchi
Original Article


We propose a method to account for the Earth oblateness effect in preliminary orbit determination of satellites in low orbits with radar observations. This method is an improvement of the one described in Gronchi et al. (Mon Not R Astron Soc 451(2):1883–1891, 2015b), which uses a pure Keplerian dynamical model. Since the effect of the Earth oblateness is strong at low altitudes, its inclusion in the model can sensibly improve the initial orbit, giving a better starting guess for differential corrections and increasing the chances to obtain their convergence. The input set consists of two tracks of radar observations, each one composed of at least four observations taken during the same pass of the satellite. A single observation gives the topocentric position of the satellite, where the range is very accurate, while the line-of-sight direction is poorly determined. From these data, we can compute by a polynomial fit the values of the range and range rate at the mean epochs of the two tracks. In order to obtain a preliminary orbit, we wish to compute the angular velocity, which is the rate of change of the line of sight. In the same spirit of Gronchi et al. (Mon Not R Astron Soc 451(2):1883–1891, 2015b), we also wish to correct the values of the angular measurements, so that they fit the selected dynamical model if the same holds for the radial distance and velocity. The selected model is a perturbed Keplerian dynamics, where the only perturbation included is the secular effect of the \(J_2\) term of the geopotential.


IOD methods LEO objects Earth oblateness 



This work is partially supported by the Marie Curie Initial Training Network Stardust, FP7-PEOPLE-2012-ITN, Grant Agreement 317185.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MathematicsPisaItaly
  2. 2.Space Dynamics Services s.r.l.NavacchioItaly

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