Survey on studies about model uncertainties in small body explorations

Jinglang Feng, Xiyun Hou, Roberto Armellin

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Currently, the explorations of small solar system bodies (asteroids and comets) have become more and more popular. Due to the limited measurement capability and irregular shape and diverse spin status of the small body, uncertainties on the parameters of the system and s/c executions are a practical and troublesome problem for mission design and operations. The sample-based Monte Carlo simulation is primarily used to propagate and analyze the effects of these uncertainties on the surrounding orbital motion. However, it is generally time-consuming because of large samples required by the highly nonlinear dynamics. New methods need to be applied for balancing computational efficiency and accuracy. To motivate this research area and facilitate the mission design process, this review firstly discusses the dynamical models and the different methods of modeling the mostly related gravitational and non-gravitational forces. Then the main uncertainties in these force models are classified and analyzed, including approaching, orbiting and landing. Then the linear and nonlinear uncertainty propagation methods are described, together with their advantages and drawbacks. Typical mission examples and the associated uncertainty analysis, in terms of methods and outcomes, are summarized. Future research efforts are emphasized in terms of complete modelling, new mission scenarios, and application of (semi-) analytical methods in small body explorations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100549
Number of pages12
JournalProgress in Aerospace Sciences
Early online date6 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2019


  • small body explorations
  • uncertainty analysis
  • Monte Carlo simulation
  • semi-analytical methods
  • micro-probe

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