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A Sensitivity Study on the Effectiveness of Active Debris Removal in LEOThe near-Earth orbital debris population will continue to increase in the future due to ongoing space activities, on-orbit explosions, and accidental collisions among resident space objects. Commonly adopted mitigation measures, such as limiting postmission orbital lifetimes of satellites to less than 25 years, will slow down the population growth, but may be insufficient to stabilize the environment. The nature of the growth, in the low Earth orbit (LEO) region, is further demonstrated by a recent study where no future space launches were conducted in the environment projection simulations. The results indicate that, even with no new launches, the LEO debris population would remain relatively constant for only the next 50 years. Beyond that, the debris population would begin to increase noticeably, due to the production of collisional debris. Therefore, to better limit the growth of future debris population to protect the environment, remediation option, i.e., removing existing large and massive objects from orbit, needs to be considered. This paper does not intend to address the technical or economical issues for active debris removal. Rather, the objective is to provide a sensitivity study to quantify the effectiveness of various remediation options. A removal criterion based upon mass and collision probability is developed to rank objects at the beginning of each projection year. This study includes simulations with removal rates ranging from 2 to 20 objects per year, starting in the year 2020. The outcome of each simulation is analyzed, and compared with others. The summary of the study serves as a general guideline for future debris removal consideration.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Liou, J. C. (Jacobs Sverdrup Technology, Inc. Houston, TX, United States)
Johnson, Nicholas L. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2007
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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