Minimum Altitude Variation Arcs 861665

This paper develops information on minimum altitude variation arcs for near-Earth (altitude 150 to 600 km) satellites. At the low altitudes that these satellites operate the Earth's gravitational field and atmospheric drag are the primary perturbations. The secular results of the method of averaging are employed to determine the influence of the gravitational zonal harmonics through J4. The drag effects are obtained by numerical integration using a tabular model for density. The secular change caused by these perturbations in radial distance from the center of the Earth to the satellite is computed. Proper adjustment of semimajor axis, eccentricity, and argument of perigee at a given inclination minimizes the altitude deviation over the latitude arc of interest. This technique is useful in the planning stage when mission constraints dictate minimum altitude variation.


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