Symplectic integration of space debris motion considering several Earth's shadowing models

Charles Hubaux, Anne Lemaitre, Nicolas Delsate, Timoteo Carletti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this work, we present a symplectic integration scheme to numerically compute space debris motion. Such an integrator is particularly suitable to obtain reliable trajectories of objects lying on high orbits, especially geostationary ones. Indeed, it has already been demonstrated that such objects could stay there for hundreds of years. Our model takes into account the Earth's gravitational potential, luni-solar and planetary gravitational perturbations and direct solar radiation pressure. Based on the analysis of the energy conservation and on a comparison with a high order non-symplectic integrator, we show that our algorithm allows us to use large time steps and keep accurate results. We also propose an innovative method to model Earth's shadow crossings by means of a smooth shadow function. In the particular framework of symplectic integration, such a function needs to be included analytically in the equations of motion in order to prevent numerical drifts of the energy. For the sake of completeness, both cylindrical shadows and penumbra transitions models are considered. We show that both models are not equivalent and that big discrepancies actually appear between associated orbits, especially for high area-to-mass ratios.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1472-1486
Number of pages15
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Space debris
  • Symplectic integration
  • Solar radiation pressure
  • Shadowing effects
  • High area-to-mass ratios


Dive into the research topics of 'Symplectic integration of space debris motion considering several Earth's shadowing models'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this