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Mathematical Problems in Engineering
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 7309637, 13 pages
Research Article

Ballistic Coefficient Estimation for Reentry Prediction of Rocket Bodies in Eccentric Orbits Based on TLE Data

1Astronautics Research Group, University of Southampton, Highfield Campus, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK
2Surrey Space Centre, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH, UK
3Department of Integrated System Engineering, Kyushu Institute of Technology, Kitakyushu, Japan

Correspondence should be addressed to David J. Gondelach; moc.liamg@hcalednogdivad

Received 30 June 2017; Accepted 14 November 2017; Published 10 December 2017

Academic Editor: Alessandro Gasparetto

Copyright © 2017 David J. Gondelach et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Spent rocket bodies in geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) pose impact risks to the Earth’s surface when they reenter the Earth’s atmosphere. To mitigate these risks, reentry prediction of GTO rocket bodies is required. In this paper, the reentry prediction of rocket bodies in eccentric orbits based on only Two-Line Element (TLE) data and using only ballistic coefficient (BC) estimation is assessed. The TLEs are preprocessed to filter out outliers and the BC is estimated using only semimajor axis data. The BC estimation and reentry prediction accuracy are analyzed by performing predictions for 101 rocket bodies initially in GTO and comparing with the actual reentry epoch at different times before reentry. Predictions using a single and multiple BC estimates and using state estimation by orbit determination are quantitatively compared with each other for the 101 upper stages.