2011

Predicting Spacecraft Trajectories by the WeavEncke Method

A combination of methods is proposed of predicting spacecraft trajectories that possibly include multiple maneuvers and/or perturbing accelerations, with greater speed, accuracy, and repeatability than were heretofore achievable. The combination is denoted the WeavEncke method because it is based on unpublished studies by Jonathan Weaver of the orbit-prediction formulation of the noted astronomer Johann Franz Encke. Weaver evaluated a number of alternatives that arise within that formulation, arriving at an orbit-predicting algorithm optimized for complex trajectory operations.

In the WeavEncke method, Encke’s method of prediction of perturbed orbits is enhanced by application of modern numerical methods. Among these methods are efficient Kepler’s-equation time-of-flight solutions and self-starting numerical integration with time as the independent variable. Self-starting numerical integration satisfies the requirements for accuracy, reproducibility, and efficiency (and, hence, speed). Self-starting numerical integration also supports fully analytic regulation of integration step sizes, thereby further increasing speed while maintaining accuracy.

This work was done by Jonathan K. Weaver of Johnson Space Center and Daniel R. Adamo of United Space Alliance. For further information, contact the JSC Innovation Partnerships Office at (281) 483-3809. MSC-23802-1