Honors Theses


James Worth Bagley College of Engineering


Department of Aerospace Engineering


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


Aerospace Engineering

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Accurately predicting the thermospheric neutral mass density is crucial for estimating the trajectory of low Earth orbit (LEO) spacecraft since satellite drag introduces errors in orbit determination solutions for the rapidly increasing number of man-made objects. The purpose of this study is to quantify the degree of variability in the thermospheric neutral mass density during the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day geomagnetic storm utilizing the coupled Whole Atmosphere Model and Ionosphere-PlasmasphereElectrodynamics model (WAM-IPE). The neutral mass density variations for various geophysical conditions from WAM-IPE are compared between the accelerometer satellite observations from Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) and the Coupled Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Plasmasphere, and electrodynamics (CTIPe) model. The results comparing WAM-IPE with GOCE and CTIPe suggest that the WAMIPE model can capture normal diurnal/latitude neutral density structure as well as the response and recovery to the geomagnetic storm. With appropriate parameters in place, the results agree remarkably well with a standard deviation = 0.0917, a bias = 1.04, and a correlation coefficient = 0.949.

Publication Date



NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship Program

First Advisor

Koenig, Keith

Second Advisor

Dyer, Jamie

Third Advisor

Hoffman, David