Investigation of Orbital Debris Situational Awareness with Constellation Design and Evaluation

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Virginia Tech


Orbital debris is a current and growing threat to reliable space operations and new space vehicle traffic. As space traffic increases, so does the economic impact of orbital debris on the sustainability of systems that increasingly support national security and international commerce. Much of the debris collision risk is concentrated in specific high-density debris clusters in key regions of Low Earth Orbit (LEO). A potential long-term solution is to employ a constellation of observation satellites within these debris clusters to improve monitoring and characterization efforts, and engage in Laser Debris Removal (LDR) as means of collision mitigation. Here we adapted and improved a previous methodology for evaluating such designs. Further, we performed an analysis on the observer constellations' effectiveness over a range of circular, elliptical, and self-maneuvering designs. Our results show that increasingly complex designs result in improved performance of various criteria and that the proposed method of observation could significantly reduce the threat orbital debris poses to space operations and economic growth.



orbital debris, laser debris removal, constellation design, space situational awareness