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Proceedings Paper

Characterization of the potential impact of space systems on the orbital debris environment: satellite constellations
Author(s): Richard Crowther; Hedley Stokes; Roger Walker; Simon P. Barrows; Graham Swinerd
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Paper Abstract

In this paper we consider the implications for the orbital debris environment of introducing a constellation of satellites into low Earth orbit. We consider not only the impact that the orbital debris population will have on the satellites, but also the possible effect of the space system on the environment. Using standard population models we estimate the collision risk that the current orbital debris environment will present to a variety of generic constellation designs, and investigate the consequences of a collision-induced breakup of one of the constellation elements for operational satellites residing both within, and outside, the constellation. We apply state-of-the-art developments in the method of probabilistic continuun dynamics to estimate the short term collision hazard, and the classical Kessler approach to estimate the long term collision risk. We assess the probability of a collision-induced cascade fragmentation occuring within the system and its possible consequences for the extermal satellite population. We find that for large constellation sizes, the likelihood of a collision- induced breakup of a satellite is significant, although the probability of a collisional cascade within the constellation remains small by comparison.

Paper Details

Date Published: 23 June 1995
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 2483, Space Environmental, Legal, and Safety Issues, (23 June 1995); doi: 10.1117/12.212564
Show Author Affiliations
Richard Crowther, Defence Research Agency (United Kingdom)
Hedley Stokes, Defence Research Agency (United Kingdom)
Roger Walker, Defence Research Agency (United Kingdom)
Simon P. Barrows, Univ. of Southampton (United Kingdom)
Graham Swinerd, Univ. of Southampton (United Kingdom)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 2483:
Space Environmental, Legal, and Safety Issues
Timothy D. Maclay, Editor(s)

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