Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Space Debris From Satellite Explosion Increases Collision Risk for Space Craft

08.05.2015

Debris from the US Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) F13 satellite, which recently exploded in orbit, could pose a threat to other spacecraft and missions according to new research from the University of Southampton.

On 3 February 2015, the DMSP F13 satellite exploded in orbit producing over an estimated 100 pieces of space debris that were detected using radar. In assessing how debris created by the explosion might affect their spacecraft, the European Space Agency and other satellite operators concluded that it would pose little risk to their missions.


University of Southampton

The spreading of the fragmentation cloud to form a band of debris (exaggerated size).

However, scientists from the Astronautics Research Group at the University of Southampton investigated the risks to a wide range of space missions, coming from smaller pieces of debris created by the explosion that cannot be detected using radar based on the ground.

In the case of the explosion of DMSP-F13, they detected 100 new catalogued objects, which suggest that more than 50,000 small fragments larger than 1mm were created.

PhD student Francesca Letizia, who led the research under the supervision of Dr Camilla Colombo and Dr Hugh Lewis, says: “The fragments from the explosion spread around the Earth forming a band, which can be crossed by spacecraft with orbits that are quite different from the one of DMSP-F13.”

The Southampton team developed a new technique called CiELO (debris Cloud Evolution in Low Orbits) to assess the collision risk to space missions from small-sized debris. They produced a collision probability map showing a peak in the risk at altitudes just below the location of the DMSP-F13 explosion. The map was created by treating the debris cloud produced by the explosion as a fluid, whose density changes under the effect of atmospheric drag.

Dr Colombo, who proposed this idea as a part of a Marie Curie project in the European 7th Framework Programme, says: “Treating the fragment band as a fluid allows us to analyse the motion of a large number of fragments very quickly, and much faster than conventional methods. In this way, the presence of small fragments can be easily taken into account to obtain a refined estimation of the collision probability due to an explosion or a collision in space.”

Francesca, who was awarded the 2013 Amelia Earhart Fellowship for this work, adds: “This map can be used with a database of spacecraft or space debris objects to identify the targets that are most exposed. For example, in the map we show the top ten spacecraft at risk from the fragments generated by the explosion of DMSP-F13 according to our model. They are mainly US and Russian satellites in sun-synchronous or polar orbits.”

The aim of the team’s research is to gain a deeper insight into the dynamics of small debris fragments and their contribution to collision risk in the Earth orbital environment. Dr Lewis, who represents the UK Space Agency on the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), says that it is important to understand this contribution:

“Even though many of these objects will be no bigger than the ball in a ballpoint pen, they can disable a spacecraft in a collision because of their enormous speed. In the case of the DMSP-F13 explosion, our work has shown that the introduction of a new cloud of small-sized debris into orbit will have increased the risks for other spacecraft in the vicinity, even if the risk from the larger fragments has been discounted.”

The research is published in the Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics.

Contact Information
Glenn Harris
Media Relations Officer
G.Harris@soton.ac.uk
Phone: +44 23 8059 3212

Glenn Harris | newswise
Further information:
http://www.soton.ac.uk

Further reports about: Debris Earth Space collision fragments orbits satellite space debris space missions spacecraft

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A better way to weigh millions of solitary stars
15.12.2017 | Vanderbilt University

nachricht A chip for environmental and health monitoring
15.12.2017 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>