Fehlberg’s Runge-Kutta Methods

Many of the important algorithms we use today in the space business have their origins in NASA’s Apollo program. For example, the Runge-Kutta methods with stepsize control developed by Erwin Fehlberg (1911-1990). These are still used today for propagating spacecraft trajectories. Fehlberg was a German mathematician who ended up at Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Many of the original reports documenting these methods are publicly available on the NASA Technical Reports Server (see references below). Modern Fortran implementations of Fehlberg’s RK7(8) and RK8(9) methods (and others) can be found in the Fortran Astrodynamics Toolkit.

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