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Presentation of problems associated with predicting satellite orbit decay plus a description of several programs for computing long-term orbit decay, model atmospheres, and final decay and reentry. Computation of long-term orbit decay using the RAND Satellite Lifetime Program is illustrated for Explorer 9, and the orbit-decay data from the satellite are used to derive a current model atmosphere different from any standard atmospheres and permitting, in subsequent decay computations, a good long-term prediction capability. Computation of final orbit decay with both the Satellite Lifetime Program and the RAND ROCKET Program is then illustrated for the case of Cosmos 5; in this case, adjustment of the satellite's ballistic coefficient is used to effectively adjust a model atmosphere to simulate the current atmosphere. (See also RM-3700, RM-4007, RM-4204.)

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research memorandum series. The Research Memorandum was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 1973 that represented working papers meant to report current results of RAND research to appropriate audiences.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.