Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


Kira Abercromby


This thesis is directed toward the feasibility of observing satellites on the nano scale and determining an accurate propagated orbit using a Meade LX600-ACF 14” diameter aperture telescope currently located on the California Polytechnic State University campus. The optical telescope is fitted with an f/6.3 focal reducer, SBIG ST-10XME CCD camera and Optec TCF-S Focuser. This instrumentation allowed for a 22’ X 15’ arcminute FOV in order to accurately image passing LEO satellites. Through the use of the Double-r and Gauss Initial Orbit Determination methods as well as Least Squared Differential Correction and Extended Kalman Filter Orbit Determination methods, an accurate predicted orbit can be determined.

These calculated values from observational data of satellites within the Globalstar system are compared against the most updated TLEs for each satellite at the time of observation. The determined differential errors from the well-defined TLEs acquired via online database were used to verify the feasibility of the accuracy which can be obtained from independent observations. Through minimization of error caused from imaging noise, pointing error, and timing error, the main determination of accurate orbital determination lies in the instrumentation mechanical capabilities itself. With the ability to acquire up to 7 individual satellite observations during a single transit, the use of both IOD and OD methods, and the recently acquired Cal Poly telescope with an increased 14” aperture, the feasibility of imaging and orbital determination of nanosatellites is greatly improved.

Included in

Astrodynamics Commons