The objective of this paper is to examine when the aerospace community should proceed to develop and deploy active debris removal solutions. A two-prong approach is taken to examine both (1) operational hazard thresholdsand (2) economic triggers. Research in the paper reinforces work by previous investigators that show accurately determining a hazard metric, and an appropriate threshold for that metric that triggers an imperative to implement active debris removal options, is difficult to formulate. A new operational hazard threshold defined by the doubling of the “lethal” debris environment coupled with the threshold that would affect insurance premiums is disclosed for the first time. The doubling of the lethal hazard at 850km and the annual probability of collision in the 650-1000km region may both occur as early as 2035.
Original document located here – https://www.amostech.com/TechnicalPapers/2010/Posters/McKnight.pdf
REFERENCES AND ENDNOTES
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2. Talent, D., “A Prioritization Methodology for Orbital Debris Removal”, NASA-DARPA International Conference on Orbital Debris Removal, Chantilly, VA, 8-10 Dec 2009.
3. Ongoing technical discussions with Nicholas Johnson (NASA/JSC) and satellite operators from 2008 to present. Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) has been tracking conjunctions more closely since February 2009 and reported that more than 40 collision avoidance maneuvers have taken place over the last year.
4. McKnight, D., “DMSP Vehicle Anomaly Report (VAR) Analysis”, Prepared for the Space Protection Program, September 2009.
5. McKnight, D. et al, “Correlation of Spacecraft Anomalies to the Debris Environment: An Update,” 47th International Astronautical Congress, Beijing, China, 7-11 October 1996.
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16. The cumulative mass distribution equation of CN = 0.5(mt/mf)-0.75 is used with the fragment mass threshold of 2.15 gm and the target mass assumed to be 3,000kg. This combination results in about 20,000 objects larger than 2.15 gm being produced when a 3,000kg object is catastrophically destroyed via collision. Based upon results documented in: D.S. McKnight, et al, “Fragmentation Algorithms for Satellite Targets (FAST) Empirical
Breakup Model, Version 2.0”, Prepared for DoD/NASA Orbital Debris Spacecraft Breakup Modeling
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17. McKnight, D.; Griesbach, J.; and Rogers, C.; GEO Object Characterization, AMOS Tech Conference, 31 Aug –
1 Sept 2009.
18. Taleb, N. N. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Random House, NY, NY, 2007.
19. In technical discussions with Nick Johnson of NASA/JSC in January 2010, he commented on the research performed at Kyushu University for low collision velocities between intact satellites that would be prevalent in GEO. Results have shown a good scaling relationship with the NASA breakup model which indicates that several hundred objects might be created from such a “low velocity” (relative to LEO) collision.
20. In technical discussions with Nick Johnson of NASA/JSC in January 2010, he commented that the proposed S- band fence should do a great deal in increasing the sub-cm tracked population at the same time as greatly improving conjunction assessment accuracies.
21. In technical discussions with Don Kessler, retired Chief Scientist of the NASA/JSC Orbital Debris Program, he noted that impacts from nontrackable debris on “a tether and a wiring bundle” on two separate spacecraft caused mission failures of these satellites in low Earth orbit.
22. J.-C. Liou and N.L. Johnson, “Risks in Space From Orbiting Debris”, Science, Vol. 311, pp. 340-341, 20 January 2006.
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24. The US’s fight against terrorism is a classic example of “recovery” costing more than “deterrence” and “denial”. There were many fairly simple, but marginally costly and definitely inconvenient, ways to deter individuals from trying to fly an aircraft into a prominent US landmark yet few precautions were taken. There were, unfortunately, tens of threats of similar severity and likelihood to the actions taken on September 11, 2001 that US counterterrorist experts had to consider when advocating the best response. As a result, it was considered onerous to try to eliminate the risk from all highly impactful but low probability events. The resulting recovery costs from the World Trade Center collapse were undoubtedly much greater than the actions that would have been sufficient in advance to prevent the attack but the resolve was not there due to a lack of the appreciation of the actual risk of the event. If someone had lobbied and fought for screening equipment and changed procedures that would have prevented the tragedy on September 11, 2001, they never would have been lauded for their great work but rather scrutinized for spending a lot of time and money that was not necessary. Many would take the evidence of no major terrorist event as being proof that the deterrence and mitigation options were not necessary.
25. NASA Orbital Debris Program web site, Measurements Section,
last updated 24Aug2009. The reference reads in its entirety as: “NASA’s main source of data for debris in the size range of 1 to 30 cm is the Haystack radar. The Haystack radar, operated by MIT Lincoln Laboratory, has been collecting orbital debris data for NASA since 1990 under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense. Haystack statistically samples the debris population by “staring” at selected pointing angles and detecting debris that fly through its field-of-view. The data are used to characterize the debris population by size, altitude, and inclination. From these measurements, scientists have concluded that there are over 500,000 debris fragments in orbit with sizes down to one centimeter. NASA also collects data from the Haystack Auxiliary Radar (HAX) located next to the main Haystack antenna. Although HAX is less sensitive than Haystack, it operates at a different wavelength (1.8 cm for HAX versus 3 cm for Haystack) and has a wider field-of-view.”
27. Ongoing technical discussions with Nick Johnson, NASA/JSC, regarding operational hazard threshold, January 2010.
28. Johnson, N.L., “Debris Removal: An Opportunity for Cooperative Research?”, Presentation to INMARSAT HQ, London, UK, 26OCT07.
29. A similar phenomenon often occurs related to gambling. For example, the person who buys the most lottery tickets has the greatest probability of winning the lottery, however, it is almost always the single random purchase of a lottery ticket that is the winner. Again, the most probable event is hardly ever the next event to occur. The selective removal of large debris objects is not exactly random, as lottery ticket purchasing, yet it does still have the overarching issue of the most likely event usually not being the next event to occur.
30. Nicholas Johnson, NASA/JSC, provided a satellite catalog for January 2009 with the radar cross-section and mass included for all objects permitting this analysis.
26. Liou, J.-C.; Hall, D. T.; Krisko, P.; and Opiela, J.N.; LEGEND – A Three-Dimensional LEO-to-GEO Debris Evolutionary Model, Advances in Space Research, Volume 34, Issue 5, 2004, Pages 981-986
31. Virgili, B.B. and Krag, H., Strategies for Active Removal in LEO, Proceedings of the 5th European Conference on Space Debris, Darmstadt, Germany, ESA SP-672, July 2009.
32. Kelso, T.S., Analysis of the Iridium 33-Cosmos 2251 Collision, AAS 09-368, presented at the 19th AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, Pittsburgh, PA, August 11, 2009.
33. During the December 2009 DARPA/NASA Conference on Orbital Debris Removal in Chantilly, VA, the Technical University at Delft distributed a survey to conference participants regarding space debris removal. The results were provided to the author in July 2010.