For satellites in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) region, the drag coefficient is a primary source of uncertainty for orbit determination and prediction. Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have created the so-called Response Surface Modeling (RSM) toolkit to provide the community with a resource for simulating and modeling satellite drag coefficients for satellites with complex geometries (modeled using triangulated facets) in the free molecular flow (FMF) regime. The toolkit fits an interpolation surface using non-parametric Gaussian Process Regression (GPR) over drag coefficient data computed using the numerical Test Particle Monte Carlo (TPMC) method. The fitted response surface provides a substantial computational benefit over numerical approaches for calculating drag coefficients. In this work, the RSM toolkit is further developed into a versatile software with extended capabilities. The capabilities are specifically expanded to include uncertainty quantification and adaptation for automatic development of regression models for satellites with non-stationary components (e.g., rotating solar panels). Furthermore, the toolkit uses Python 3.x and C programming languages to provide an open-source software package with a OSI approved GPL license. To assist the end user, the new RSM toolkit has been developed to have a user-friendly installation process and is provided with extensive documentation. The analysis of two different conceptual satellites is performed during this work: a simple cube and a CubeSat consisting of a simple cube body with 2 rotating solar panels. During the creation of the regression model for each satellite for different atmospheric species, it is found that the cube's minimum Root Mean Squared Error (RMSE) is 0.00211 and the maximum RMSE is 0.00350. The CubeSat has a minimum RMSE of 0.00304 and the maximum is 0.00498. These results are overall conducive of a well performing regression model.


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Publication Status

Open Access


National Science Foundation, Grant 1726534

Keywords and Phrases

Drag modeling; Gas-surface interaction; Response surface modeling; Satellite drag coefficient

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1879-1948; 0273-1177

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2023 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

15 May 2022