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Proceedings Paper

Early detection of collisional cascading
Author(s): Andrew E. Potter
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Paper Abstract

Theoretical analyses of the orbital debris environment have shown that collisions could eventually become the dominant source of orbital debris. Debris will be added to the environment more rapidly by collisions than it can be removed by atmospheric drag. The models suggest that this process has already begun in some altitude regimes, specifically in the region from about 900 to 1000 km. It is important to verify these predictions by measurement in order to provide solid justification for early preventive measures. Collisions of two large objects are predicted to be very infrequent at the present time. However, the models predict that collisions of small debris with large objects will take place at an appreciable rate. One collision of an 0.5 cm object with a large object is expected each year. The collision rate increases with decreasing size, such that 80 collisions of 1 mm objects with a large object are expected each year. These collisions will not destroy the large object, but will generate a shower of microdebris. The particles generated by such collisions are mostly thrown forward, and either escape, or enter exceptionally long-lived elliptical orbits. It is suggested that an orbital experiment be flown for the specific purpose of detecting the predicted collisions by measuring the micro-debris fluxes resulting from the collisions.

Paper Details

Date Published: 15 September 1993
PDF: 11 pages
Proc. SPIE 1951, Space Debris Detection and Mitigation, (15 September 1993); doi: 10.1117/12.156552
Show Author Affiliations
Andrew E. Potter, NASA Johnson Space Ctr. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 1951:
Space Debris Detection and Mitigation
Firooz A. Allahdadi, Editor(s)

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