An exact solution for orbit view-periods from a station on a tri-axial ellipsoidal planetThis paper presents the concise exact solution for predicting view-periods to be observed from a masked or unmasked tracking station on a tri-axial ellipsoidal surface. The new exact approach expresses the azimuth and elevation angles of a spacecraft in terms of the station-centered geodetic topocentric coordinates in an elegantly concise manner. A simple and efficient algorithm is developed to avoid costly repetitive computations in searching for neighborhoods near the rise and set times of each satellite orbit for each station. Only one search for each orbit is necessary for each station. Sample results indicate that the use of an assumed spherical earth instead of an 'actual' tri-axial ellipsoidal earth could introduce an error up to a few minutes in a view-period prediction for circular orbits of low or medium altitude. For an elliptical orbit of high eccentricity and long period, the maximum error could be even larger. The analytic treatment and the efficient algorithm are designed for geocentric orbits, but they should be applicable to interplanetary trajectories by an appropriate coordinates transformation at each view-period calculation. This analysis can be accomplished only by not using the classical orbital elements.
Tang, C. C. H. (California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, United States)