Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


Kira Abercromby


This report describes the results of optical observations of several Ariane 5 rocket bodies near geostationary altitude. Their estimated sidereal spin rates and spin axis orientations are obtained by a combination of analyzing the light curves of the rocket bodies and the 3D geometry between the observer and the sun. Knowing the sidereal tumble rate and the spin axis orientation will be helpful for future debris removal missions if the number of artificial satellites near Earth's geostationary orbit has any hope of decreasing. In addition, by generating light curves for these satellites, it will help future optical observations of unknown objects be classified as Ariane 5 rocket bodies if their light curve is similar to those presented in this paper (or not classify them as an Ariane 5 rocket body if the light curves are dissimilar). The data presented in this paper were taken throughout April and May of 2014 at the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Astronomical Observatory. A Meade 14" telescope and CCD camera were used for data collection, and data was reduced using IRAF software and self-written Matlab code.