Re: Astrodynamics Books

Jim Varney (
Wed, 29 Apr 1998 21:38:33 -0700

Brian Mancuso <> wrote:

> I recently became interested in satellites and astrodynamics
> after learning about GPS. Could anybody recommend a good
> introductory book on orbital mechanics?

I recommend Bate, Mueller and White's "Fundamentals of Astrodynamics."  
It's a bit dated but for a basic text it's very good.  Best of all it's a 
Dover paperback and it's cheap (under $10).  If you don't like the book 
then you haven't lost much.  ISBN 0-486-60061-0.

To understand the book it helps to brush up on vector math.

> I've heard of something called the SPG4 algorithm. My impression
> is that SPG4 is more accurate then other methods. Is this true?

SGP4 is the most accurate commonly available algorithm.

> Do introductory texts discuss this algorithm, or would I have to
> go to other sources for that? Is that algorithm difficult to 
> implement if you don't have a doctorate in astrodynamics?

Texts don't discuss SGP4 as far as I know, but then I'm not an expert.  
Since the SGP4 source code is publicly available at you don't 
need a PhD.  The code in the Spacetrack document can be confusing because 
you have to understand how the various Fortran 'drivers' interact with the 
SGP4 engine.  Have fun with your project!

Jim Varney
Member, Sacramento Valley Astronomical Society