Special Issue "Orbit Determination Methods for Space Missions and Applications to the Exploration of the Solar System"

A special issue of Aerospace (ISSN 2226-4310). This special issue belongs to the section "Astronautics & Space Science".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2023 | Viewed by 1796

Special Issue Editors

Dipartimento di Matematica, Università di Pisa, Largo Bruno Pontecorvo 5, 56127 Pisa, Italy
Interests: space missions; radio science; astronomy; celestial mechanics
Dipartimento di Ingegneria Industriale, Alma Mater Studiorum - Università di Bologna, Via Fontanelle 40, 47121 Forlì, Italy
Interests: spacecraft navigation; radio science; planetary science; small SATs

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Space missions are an extraordinary opportunity to collect data in proximity to celestial bodies, whether large, such as planets and satellites, or small, such as asteroids and comets. The payload of a mission includes different instruments and experiments, with which it is possible to investigate many features of target celestial bodies. 

Among these, radio science experiments make use of the radio link with Earth to perform very precise orbit determination of the spacecraft. Often, the standard onboard radio subsystem is augmented by dedicated instrumentation, such as Ultra Stable Oscillators or Ka-band transponders, or different types of data, such as accelerometers, laser altimeters, or pictures taken by optical cameras. In this framework, space missions’ data have been proved crucial to study the gravity, rotation, and atmosphere of celestial bodies. Moreover, they are routinely used to improve ephemerides, also allowing to measure small dynamical effects that affect the long-term evolution of celestial bodies. In order to obtain these fundamental results for a full understanding of the solar system, space missions are preceded by a development phase for determining scientific objectives and resolving engineering challenges. In this context, preliminary simulations and covariance analyses are essential to investigate new mission concepts and to assess the performances of future missions. 

This Special Issue aims to cover innovative technologies, methods, and applications of precise orbit determination using space mission data. Relevant topics include but are not limited to: 

  • New orbit determination strategies;
  • Software products for precise orbit determination;
  • Development of dedicated hardware and instrumentation;
  • Estimation of the gravity field of planets and small bodies;
  • Estimation of the rotation and precession of celestial bodies;
  • Detection of dynamical effects affecting the orbital evolution of celestial bodies;
  • Test of the General Relativity theory;
  • Use of nanosatellites for in situ observations;
  • Synergic use of different onboard instruments;
  • New mission concepts for solar system exploration.

Dr. Giacomo Lari
Dr. Marco Zannoni
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Aerospace is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • orbit determination
  • radio science
  • spacecraft data
  • small satellites
  • planetary science
  • satellite geodesy
  • ephemerides

Published Papers (1 paper)

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17 pages, 5000 KiB  
Research on Enhanced Orbit Prediction Techniques Utilizing Multiple Sets of Two-Line Element
Aerospace 2023, 10(6), 532; https://doi.org/10.3390/aerospace10060532 - 03 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1172
Acquiring accurate space object orbits is crucial for many applications such as satellite tracking, space debris detection, and collision avoidance. The widely used two-line element (TLE) method estimates the position and velocity of objects in space, but its accuracy can be limited by [...] Read more.
Acquiring accurate space object orbits is crucial for many applications such as satellite tracking, space debris detection, and collision avoidance. The widely used two-line element (TLE) method estimates the position and velocity of objects in space, but its accuracy can be limited by various factors. A combination of multiple TLEs and advanced modeling techniques such as batch least squares differential correction and high-precision numerical propagators can significantly improve TLE accuracy and reliability, ensuring better space object surveillance. Previous studies analyzed additional factors that may influence TLE accuracy and evaluated the accuracy of Starlink TLE using precise ephemeris data from SpaceX. The results indicate that utilizing multiple TLEs for precise orbit determination can significantly enhance the performance of orbit prediction methods, particularly when compared to SGP4. By leveraging 10-day Starlink TLEs, the accuracy of 5-day predictions can be improved by approximately twofold. Additionally, producing two pseudo-observations within an orbital period near the TLE epoch yields the greatest effect on prediction accuracy, with this distribution of pseudo-observations increasing accuracy by approximately 10% compared to a uniform distribution. Further research can explore more data fusion and machine learning approaches to optimize operations in space. Full article
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