Adam T. Rich

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

William E. Wiesel, PhD.


As Low Earth Orbit (LEO) contains an ever-increasing number of objects, the prediction of future object positions must be precise in order to avoid collisions. Object positions are distributed in two-line element (TLE) sets and are generated using the analytical propagator known as Simplified General Perturbations 4 (SGP4). However, a numerical integrator called Special Perturbations (SP) provides an alternative approach to TLE generation and propagation. In this thesis, TLE accuracy was determined with both models, and the length of time that a single element set can provide valid information was also established. With two-line element sets as data, comparisons were made between the numerical integrator and the analytical model for objects in LEO, particularly the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The results obtained indicated that the propagated position error using SGP4 remained within 1 km of the expected position during a 7 day period from the epoch of the initial element set. Additionally, the majority of comparisons between SGP4 and SP resulted in a higher error while using the numerical integrator, although some comparisons showed a lower propagated position error with SP. This final result shows a potential for SP to provide more accurate position information than SGP4 in future research.

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