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Research Article
Effect of Air Drag Force on Low Earth Orbit Satellites During Maximum and Minimum Solar Activity

Kh.I. Khalil and S.W. Samwel

Space Research Journal, 2016, 9(1), 1-9.


The solar activity is known to have a significant influence on the upper atmosphere and near Earth environment. When solar activity is high, ultraviolet radiation from the Sun heats and expands the Earth’s upper atmosphere which in turn, increases the atmospheric drag and orbital decay rate of the satellites. In the present study, the variation of the orbital elements of the satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) environment due to the effect of the air drag force has been calculated. The variation of the rotation velocity of the atmosphere is considered. The Lagrange Planetary Equation in Guass form is used to calculate the variation of the orbital elements numerically. The United States Naval Research Laboratory Mass Spectrometer and Incoherent Scatter Radar Exosphere (NRLMSISE-00) model which maps out the atmosphere from sea level to 1000 km is used to estimate the density of the atmosphere. As a numerical application, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), CORONAS I and PRIRODA satellites are taken to express the LEO environment. It is found that the difference in the variation of the orbital elements during the maximum and minimum solar activity reaches three orders in magnitude and that the air drag force has a larger impact on the satellites during the solar maximum epoch than during the minimum activity epoch.

ASCI-ID: 93-68

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