In Collaboration with the University of Michigan, Project Will Forecast Satellite Positions and Orbital Decay

Michigan Aerospace Corporation (MAC) today announced that it has been awarded a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase 1 contract to study and improve models of the upper atmosphere to better predict air drag on low-orbiting satellites. This U. S. Air Force project will be carried out with the University of Michigan’s Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences (AOSS), which has extensive expertise in upper atmospheric research. Dr. Matthew Lewis, MAC Vice President, and Dr. Aaron Ridley, AOSS Associate Professor, will lead this effort, which will better quantify the actual effects the upper atmosphere has on orbiting satellites, leading to better predictions of orbiting mission lifetimes and more-exact satellite position forecasts. The models will take into account effects created by solar x-rays and other factors that can alter the electromagnetically-active upper atmosphere of Earth, increasing or decreasing drag on the satellites moving through it. These improvements will benefit the Air Force and other military and civilian satellite operators by allowing them to plan operations, predict possible conflicts well in advance, and forecast orbital decay, all with more confidence in their knowledge of satellite positions and passages than is now possible.