Assessment of numerical integration methods in the context of low Earth orbits and inter-satellite observation analysis

Thomas Papanikolaou, Dimitrios Tsoulis

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The integration of differential equations is a fundamental tool in the problem of orbit determination. In the present study, we focus on the accuracy assessment of numerical integrators in what refers to the categories of single-step and multistep methods. The investigation is performed in the frame of current satellite gravity missions i.e. Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and Gravity Field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE). Precise orbit determination is required at the level of a few cm in order to satisfy the primary missions’ scope which is the rigorous modelling of the Earth’s gravity field. Therefore, the orbit integration errors are critical for these low earth orbiters. As the result of different schemes of numerical integration is strongly affected by the forces acting on the satellites, various validation tests are performed for their accuracy assessment. The performance of the numerical methods is tested in the analysis of Keplerian orbits as well as in real dynamic orbit determination of GRACE and GOCE satellites by taking into account their sophisticated observation techniques and orbit design. Numerical investigation is performed in a wide range of the fundamental integrators’ parameters i.e. the integration step and the order of the multistep methods.
Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Geodaetica et Geophysica
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)619-641
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Multistep methods
  • Numerical integration
  • Orbit determination
  • Runge–Kutta–Nyström
  • Satellite gravity missions

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