For KickSat-1 in 2014, we at Project Persephone relied on Orekit for code to predict and display the orbits of the dozens of Sprite picosatellites to be released from KickSat. The groundwork was done mostly by Orekit people, who provided the basic orbit propagation code and parameters. At the 2014 Tokyo International Space Apps Challenge, we mainly just added a graphical display, but somehow this was enough to win us a prize. Unfortunately, KickSat-1 failed to release its Sprites.
With KickSat-2 set to launch this year in November (mission NG 10), I’ve updated the main SpriteOrbits code because some of the API has since been deprecated and there was also a move to Hipparchus. But I’m pretty useless in orbital mechanics. Hence this message: We’re hoping to recruit seasoned Orekit users to help out on some of the details.
Orekit could benefit. In particular, KickSat-2 could be a chance to calibrate an appropriate Orekit drag model. Perhaps this would be a degenerate case of BoxAndSolarArraySpacecraft, which we didn’t have in 2014. Sprites (cracker-size, long memory-wire antennae) are a fairly extreme case of ballistic coefficient as satellites go. For such a calibration, their odd shape may be all to the good. The tracking effort and post-mission data analysis could also go hand-in-hand with some actual scientific research: the rate of deceleration of Sprites may provide some clues about atmospheric gravity waves in the thermosphere in the final hours of each Sprite’s flight.
We have until mid-November or a little later to get something together and tested as much as possible. Please consider helping out.