In situ measurements of the thermospheric wind can be obtained by observing the attitude response of an aerostable spacecraft. In the proposed method, the aerostable spacecraft is left uncontrolled, freely reacting to the aerodynamic torques, and oscillating around its equilibrium attitude. The wind’s magnitude and direction is determined by combining the attitude observations with estimates of the other perturbing torques, atmospheric density, and spacecraft’s aerodynamic properties. The spatial resolution of the measurements is proportional to the natural frequency of the attitude’s oscillation. Spacecraft with high aerodynamic stiffness to inertia ratios operating at low altitudes exhibit higher natural frequencies, making them particularly suited for this method. A one degree-of-freedom case is used to present and illustrate the proposed method as well as to analyze its performance.
CEAS Space Journal – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 9, 2017
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