Improving Thermospheric Density Predictions in Low‐Earth Orbit With Machine Learning

Acciarini, Giacomo; Brown, Edward ORCID:; Berger, Tom; Guhathakurta, Madhulika; Parr, James; Bridges, Christopher; Baydin, Atılım Güneş. 2024 Improving Thermospheric Density Predictions in Low‐Earth Orbit With Machine Learning. Space Weather, 22 (2). 13, pp.

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Thermospheric density is one of the main sources of uncertainty in the estimation of satellites' position and velocity in low-Earth orbit. This has negative consequences in several space domains, including space traffic management, collision avoidance, re-entry predictions, orbital lifetime analysis, and space object cataloging. In this paper, we investigate the prediction accuracy of empirical density models (e.g., NRLMSISE-00 and JB-08) against black-box machine learning (ML) models trained on precise orbit determination-derived thermospheric density data (from CHAMP, GOCE, GRACE, SWARM-A/B satellites). We show that by using the same inputs, the ML models we designed are capable of consistently improving the predictions with respect to state-of-the-art empirical models by reducing the mean absolute percentage error (MAPE) in the thermospheric density estimation from the range of 40%–60% to approximately 20%. As a result of this work, we introduce Karman: an open-source Python software package developed during this study. Karman provides functionalities to ingest and preprocess thermospheric density, solar irradiance, and geomagnetic input data for ML readiness. Additionally, it facilitates developing and training ML models on the aforementioned data and benchmarking their performance at different altitudes, geographic locations, times, and solar activity conditions. Through this contribution, we offer the scientific community a comprehensive tool for comparing and enhancing thermospheric density models using ML techniques.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 1542-7390
Additional Keywords: thermospheric density, satellite drag, machine learning, space weather, space traffic management, space situational awareness
Date made live: 07 Feb 2024 16:07 +0 (UTC)

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