Orbital Mechanics

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This area involves study and research in the applications of orbital mechanics and remote sensing in the context of spacecraft and celestial bodies. Applications and customers include NASA, military, a variety of governmental agencies, and the rapidly growing commercial space industry.

Research in spaceflight mechanics includes trajectory and mission design, nonlinear optimization, numerical methods, perturbations, dynamical systems theory, high fidelity simulation, and high performance computing. Research in nonlinear estimation provides observable properties of dynamical systems in order to enable autonomous operations of spacecraft and ground-based tracking for satellite applications and situational awareness. Research in space domain awareness and space traffic management seeks to develop and deliver the decision-making science for the space community. 

Example topics include space object detection, tracking, identification, and characterization via multi-source information collection, curation, and fusion. Research in satellite applications include the development of space geodetic and both active and passive satellite remote sensing techniques, such as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), laser and microwave tracking of satellites, and the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). Application areas include measurement and interpretation of global Earth System variables such as the gravity field, loading, Earth rotation, and terrestrial reference frames; their application to research in the atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, and hydrosphere, as well as their mutual interactions; and GNSS signals, assurance, and applications for navigation and precise positioning.

Research is supported by a large database of satellite remote sensing measurements, state-of-the-art high performance computing resources, GPS receivers, and image processing equipment.

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