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The astrodynamics behind AGI’s UARS video

By: sclaypoole
Images can be very useful to help understand a complex or unfamiliar situation. AGI technology is being used primarily in this video to communicate some level of understanding of a very uncertain event—the Unmanned Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) reentry. The best way to do this is to help translate what the experts are saying into something visually meaningful. The video sequence of the UARS reentering the Earth’s atmosphere takes direction from a few known facts and a knowledge of orbital mechanics. AGI was able to use its high-precision software to rapidly create ephemeris data for the satellite and debris pieces. It begins by showing the large region of the orbit’s ground track between latitudes and then takes a point at which the satellite may be at 80km above the Earth’s surface. From here, a statistical spread of debris pieces of varying area, mass and drag has been modeled such that 150 pieces stop their propagation between 80 and 45 km and 26 pieces propagate into an ellipse of a defined size. There is some “eye candy” thrown in to help show the heating of the satellite as it reenters (and some drama of a solar array clearly not up for the ride!). However, the entire purpose is to provide the viewer with some insight into reentry events in general and remain faithful to what we do know and can model to provide something visually meaningful. AGI software has a host of applicable capabilities to scientifically explore and support operations involving reentry and debris events from GEO to aborted launch. The particular module of software used for this debris modeling has also been integrated into a system used to plan reentry, passing formal testing for operational use. Some previous debris modeling examples and videos include: Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 Collision US Spy Satellite 193 Chinese ASAT We also have a number of published papers available for download at Get to know the analysis behind our visualization!
Posted: 9/22/2011 7:24:02 PM