Complexity of the Earth's space-atmosphere interaction region (SAIR) response to the solar flux at 10.7 cm as seen through the evaluation of five solar cycle two-line element (TLE) records
Orbital debris are long-standing threats to space systems. They also contribute to the flux of macroscopic particles into the Earth's atmosphere and eventually affects environmental processes across several other related regions. As impactful space debris may be, debris along with other Low Earth Orbit (LEO) orbiting objects, also serve as valuable long-monitoring probes to deduce the properties of geospace environment in-situ. We define the Daily Decay Rate (DDR) as a suitable indicator of how the Earth's space-atmosphere interaction region (SAIR) responds to solar activity and how solar activity directly affects the orbital evolution of a LEO orbiter. We present a computationally simplified technique that simultaneously solves the motion equations for DDR and cross‐sectional area to mass ratio (A/m) from consecutive TLE records. By evaluating more than 50 million TLE records we estimate A/m of 15,307 NORAD-indexed objects and determine how DDR varies. We observe the thermospheric ;natural thermostat; in our results, consistent with previous studies. We compare the observed DDRs with two models based on NRLMSISE‐00 and DTM-2013, and present evidence the models display a systemic altitudinal bias. We propose several possibilities to explain this altitudinal bias including the overestimated CD at low altitudes in our models (presumably due to the despinning effect of perturbing forces on the orbiting objects), and incomplete and limited coverage of in-situ observations at high solar activity. We conclude that the density models do not reliably reproduce the densities and atmospheric-thermospheric behaviors at high solar active conditions, especially for F10.7 cm above 300 sfu.