Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


College of Engineering


Kira Abercromby

Advisor Department

Aerospace Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


A light curve is a plot of brightness versus time of an object. Light curves are dependent on orbit, attitude, surface area, size, and shape of the observed object. Using light curve data, several analysis methods have been developed to derive these parameters. These parameters can be used for tracking orbital debris, monitoring satellite health, and determining the mission of an unknown spacecraft.

This paper discusses the development, verification, and utilization of a tool that simulates light curve data. This tool models ground-based observations, space-based observations, self-shadowing geometry, tumbling debris, and controlled spacecraft. The main output from the tool is the pass prediction plot and the light curve plot. The author intends to publish the tool and supporting documents for future researchers to utilize. This will save researchers time developing their own models and the tool can act as a baseline for comparisons between analysis methods. For clarity, this paper does not develop nor implement a light curve analysis method, but rather creates a tool to simulate light curve observations and data.

Each section of the tool was verified independently to ensure that the simulated light curves were correct. The tool was verified with STK, matlab, and simulink. It predicts the start and end times of passes, eclipses, and ground-site night cycles within 1% of the total event duration, when compared to STK. The attitude propagator predicts the attitude of the target with offsets less than 0.06 degrees on average and a maximum offset less than 0.6 degrees when compared to provided attitude code.