Geodetic Line at Constant Altitude above the Ellipsoid

Richard J. Mathar
Arxiv ID: 0711.0642Last updated: 12/13/2022
The two-dimensional surface of a bi-axial ellipsoid is characterized by the lengths of its major and minor axes. Longitude and latitude span an angular coordinate system across. We consider the egg-shaped surface of constant altitude above (or below) the ellipsoid surface, and compute the geodetic lines - lines of minimum Euclidean length - within this surface which connect two points of fixed coordinates. This addresses the common "inverse" problem of geodesics generalized to non-zero elevations. The system of differential equations which couples the two angular coordinates along the trajectory is reduced to a single integral, which is handled by Taylor expansion up to fourth power in the eccentricity.

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