Bayesian Inference of Nongravitational Perturbations from Satellite Observations

Lamberto Dell'Elce, Ohad Ben-Yaacov, Pini Gurfil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gravitational and third-body perturbations can be modeled with sufficient precision for most applications in low Earth orbit. However, owing to severe uncertainty sources and modeling limitations, computational models of satellite aerodynamics and solar radiation pressure are bound to be biased. Aiming at orbital propagation consistent with observed satellite orbital dynamics, real-time estimation of these perturbations is desired. In this paper, a particle filter for the recursive inference and prediction of nongravitational forces is developed. Specifically, after assuming a parametric model for the desired perturbations, the joint probability distribution of the parameters is inferred by using a prescribed number of weighted particles, each consisting of one set of orbital elements and one set of parameters. The particle evolution is carried out by means of an underlying orbital propagator, and the Bayes rule is used to recursively update weights by comparing propagated orbital elements with satellite observations. The proposed formulation uses mean orbital elements as the only available measurements. This feature makes the algorithm a potentially valuable resource for space situational awareness applications, such as space debris trajectories prediction from two-line elements, or for onboard force estimation from Global Positioning System data. High-fidelity simulations show that nongravitational perturbations can be estimated with 20% accuracy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1231-1240
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


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