Defunct satellites in nearly polar orbits: Long-term evolution of attitude motion

Dmitry Pritykin, Sergey Efimov, Vladislav Sidorenko

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Low Earth orbits (LEO) are known as a region of high space activity and, consequently, space debris highest density. Launcher upper stages and defunct satellites are the largest space debris objects, whose collisions can result in still greater pollution, rendering further space missions in LEO impossible. Thus, space debris remediation is necessary, and the LEO region is a primary target of active debris removal (ADR) projects. However, ADR planning requires at least an approximate idea of the candidate objects' attitude dynamics, which is one of the incentives for our study. This paper is mainly focused on modeling and simulating the attitude dynamics of defunct satellites. We consider a "boxwing" configuration satellite with an ellipsoid of inertia close to an oblate ellipsoid of revolution. The dynamical model takes into account the gravity-gradient torque, the torque due to the residual magnetic moment, and the torque due to eddy currents induced by the interaction of conductive materials with the geomagnetic field. A better understanding of the intermediate phase of the exponential deceleration and existing final regimes is achieved owing to a more accurate model of the eddy-current torque than in most prior research.We also show the importance of orbital precession, which contributes to the overall attitude motion evolution.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)264-277
    Number of pages14
    JournalOpen Astronomy
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • Attitude dynamics
    • Eddy-current torque
    • Residual magnetic moment
    • Space debris


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