Finding Every Root of a Broad Class of Real, Continuous Functions in a Given Interval

This robust and reliable algorithm is capable of locating the zeros of a continuous, nonlinear function.

One of the most pervasive needs within the Deep Space Network (DSN) Metric Prediction Generator (MPG) view period event generation is that of finding solutions to given occurrence conditions. While the general form of an equation expresses equivalence between its left-hand and right-hand expressions, the traditional treatment of the subject subtracts the two sides, leaving an expression of the form f(x) = 0. Values of the independent variable x satisfying this condition are roots, or solutions. Generally speaking, there may be no solutions, a unique solution, multiple solutions, or a continuum of solutions to a given equation.

In particular, all view period events are modeled as zero crossings of various metrics; for example, the time at which the elevation of a spacecraft reaches its maximum value, as viewed from a Deep Space Station (DSS), is found by locating that point at which the derivative of the elevation function becomes zero. Moreover, each event type may have several occurrences within a given time interval of interest. For example, a spacecraft in a low Moon orbit will experience several possible occultations per day, each of which must be located in time. The MPG is charged with finding all specified event occurrences that take place within a given time interval (or “pass”), without any special clues from operators as to when they may occur, for the entire spectrum of missions undertaken by the DSN. For each event type, the event metric function is a known form that can be computed for any instant within the interval.

A method has been created for a mathematical root finder to be capable of finding all roots of an arbitrary continuous function, within a given interval, to be subject to very lenient, parameterized assumptions. One assumption is that adjacent roots are separated at least by a given amount, xGuard. Any point whose function value is less than ef in magnitude is considered to be a root, and the function values at distances xGuard away from a root are larger than ef, unless there is another root located in this vicinity. A root is considered found if, during iteration, two root candidates differ by less than a pre-specified ex, and the optimum cubic polynomial matching the function at the end and at two interval points (that is within a relative error fraction εL at its midpoint) is reliable in indicating whether the function has extrema within the interval. The robustness of this method depends solely on choosing these four parameters that control the search. The roots of discontinuous functions were also found, but at degraded performance.

This work was done by Robert C. Tausworthe of SCT, Inc. and Paul A. Wolgast of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-46901

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