The special perturbation method considered in this paper combines simplicity of computer implementation, speed and precision, and can propagate the orbit of any material particle. The paper describes the evolution of some orbital elements based in Euler parameters, which are constants in the unperturbed problem, but which evolve in the time scale imposed by the perturbation. The variation of parameters technique is used to develop expressions for the derivatives of seven elements for the general case, which includes any type of perturbation. These basic differential equations are slightly modified by introducing one additional equation for the time, reaching a total order of eight. The method was developed in the Grupo de Dinámica de Tethers (GDT) of the UPM, as a tool for dynamic simulations of tethers. However, it can be used in any other field and with any kind of orbit and perturbation. It is free of singularities related to small inclination and/or eccentricity. The use of Euler parameters makes it robust. The perturbation forces are handled in a very simple way: the method requires their components in the orbital frame or in an inertial frame. A comparison with other schemes is performed in the paper to show the good performance of the method.
Special perturbationsOrbital dynamicsNumerical methodsPropagation of orbits