Orbit Simulation for Satellite Formation Flights in LEO

Tutor: Shengdi Wang, Maik Röper
Type of Thesis: Project (MSc)
date of end: 09/2020
Student: Zhengyu Chen
Status: finished


A trend on the satellite industry is to use a group of small satellites which fly in a low earth orbit (LEO) to accomplish specific tasks, such as astronomy, communication, exploration, environmental observation, etc. Instead of huge satellites, small satellites are cheap and easy to produce and deploy, and they are much more flexible and efficient for different services. To reduce fuel and energy consumption, usually a group of small satellites is designed to fly in a formation. To control these satellites and realize autonomous flying, the dynamical relative motions of this system need to be modeled.


Study different reference frames, i.e., earth-centered inertial (ECI), earth-centered eart-fixed (ECEF) and local vertical local horizontal (LVLH). Choose a suitable reference frame to model the satellite flying dynamics. Simulate different orbits and formations under different conditions. Possible extensions are:

  • Combine the Kalman filter to estimate the position of the velocity of satellites based on GPS measurements
  • Add further effects as gravitation from sun/moon, drag due atmoshperic gases etc. to the model
  • Visualize the visibility of a satellite from the earth's perspective


Basic Matlab skills and background knowledge of mathematics (especially coordinate transformation and geoemtry) and physics are required.

Knowledge about trajectory optimization is helpful but not required 

Last change on 16.09.2020 by S. Wang
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