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Astron. Astrophys. 318, 308-314 (1997)

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Orbital evolution of high-altitude balloon satellites

Alexander V. Krivov 1 and Juan Getino 2

1 Astronomical Institute, St. Petersburg University, Stary Peterhof, 198904 St. Petersburg, Russia (krivov@aispbu.spb.su)
2 Departamento de Matematica Aplicada Fundamental, Facultad de Ciencias, E-47005 Valladolid, Spain (getino@hp9000.uva.es)

Received 20 November 1995 / Accepted 10 June 1996


We investigate the motion of artificial satellites with large area-to-mass ratios in high-altitude low inclined orbits, perturbed simultaneously by solar radiation pressure and Earth's oblateness. Our study is based on recent theoretical advances in circumplanetary dust dynamics (Hamilton & Krivov 1996). Applying these methods to the motion of balloon satellites, we write down and analyze the orbit-averaged equations of motion in planar approximation. Contrary to many previous works, our consideration imposes no restrictions on eccentricities and radiation pressure strengths. The results show how the eccentricity and apses line of a satellite orbit evolve with time for various area-to-mass ratios, geocentric distances, and initial data. Our special interest is with complicated dynamical effects arising from the two perturbing forces above. We demonstrate the possibility of dramatic orbital changes under small variations of initial data and force parameters. For typical balloon satellite parameters, these unusual effects may take place at altitudes between one and two Earth's radii.

Key words: space vehicles – balloons – radiation pressure – Earth's oblateness – celestial mechanics

Send offprint requests to: A.V. Krivov

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1997

Online publication: July 8, 1998