Analysis of the de-orbiting and re-entry of space objects with high area to mass ratio

Massimiliano Vasile, Edmondo Minisci, Romain Serra, James Beck, Ian Holbrough

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution book

4 Citations (Scopus)
136 Downloads (Pure)


This paper presents a preliminary analysis of the de-orbiting and re-entry dynamics of space objects with a large area to mass ratio. Two different classes of objects are considered: fragments of satellites (like solar panels and pieces of thermal blankets) and complete nano-satellites with passive de-orbiting devices like a drag sail. Different sources of uncertainty are considered including atmospheric density variability with latitude and solar cycles, aerodynamic properties of the object, light pressure, initial conditions. The coupling of the uncertainty in the aerodynamic forces and attitude motion is investigated to understand if low fidelity three degrees of freedom models can be used in place of more expensive high fidelity models to make predictions on the re-entry time. Modern uncertainty propagation and quantification tools are used to assess the effect of uncertainty on the re-entry time and study the dependency on a number of key parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2016
Place of PublicationReston
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2016
EventAIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2016 - Long Beach, United States
Duration: 13 Sept 201616 Sept 2016

Publication series

NameAIAA Space Forum
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc


ConferenceAIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLong Beach


  • de-orbiting
  • re-entry
  • satellite fragments
  • nanosatellites
  • aerodynamic properties
  • attitude motion
  • atmospheric drag


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