Comparing Analytical and Numerical Approaches to Meteoroid Orbit Determination using Hayabusa TelemetryOPEN ACCESS 

Trent Jansen-Sturgeon, Eleanor K. Sansom, Phil A. Bland


last revised 22 Aug 2019

“Fireball networks establish the trajectories of meteoritic material passing through Earth’s atmosphere, from which they can derive pre-entry orbits. Triangulated atmospheric trajectory data requires different orbit determination methods to those applied to observational data beyond the Earth’s sphere-of-influence, such as telescopic observations of asteroids. Currently, the vast majority of fireball networks determine and publish orbital data using an analytical approach, with little flexibility to include orbital perturbations. Here we present a novel numerical technique for determining meteoroid orbits from fireball network data and compare it to previously established methods. The re-entry of the Hayabusa spacecraft, with its known pre-Earth orbit, provides a unique opportunity to perform this comparison as it was observed by fireball network cameras. As initial sightings of the Hayabusa spacecraft and capsule were made at different altitudes, we are able to quantify the atmosphere’s influence on the determined pre-Earth orbit. Considering these trajectories independently, we found the orbits determined by the novel numerical approach to align closer to JAXA’s telemetry in both cases. Comparing the orbits determined from the capsule’s re-entry shows the need for an atmospheric model, which the prevailing analytical approach lacks. Using simulations, we determine the atmospheric perturbation to become significant at ~90 km; higher than the first observations of typical meteorite dropping events. Using further simulations, we find the most substantial differences between techniques to occur at both low entry velocities and Moon passing trajectories. These regions of comparative divergence demonstrate the need for perturbation inclusion within the chosen orbit determination algorithm.”