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History of satellite break-ups in spaceBy 28 June 1961 the 1st Aerospace Control Squadron had cataloged 115 Earth orbiting satellites from data supplied by a rather diverse collection of radar and optical sensors. On 29 June 1961, the Able Star rocket of the 1961 Omicron launch exploded causing a quantum jump in the number of Earth orbiting objects. Since that time there have been 69 Earth orbiting satellites break up in space whose debris remained in orbit long enough for orbital elements to be developed. A list of the 69 breakups is provided. The debris from some of the lower altitude breakups has all decayed. Among the 69 breakups, 44 have cataloged debris remaining in orbit. As of 1 July 1982, the size of the cataloged orbiting population was exactly 4700. Forty-nine percent of these objects are fragments of the forty-four breakups. For each breakup the various orbits of its debris represent a family of orbits that are related in characteristics due to their common impulse launch. A few examples are shown of how the families are oriented in space.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Gabbard, J.
(North American Air Defense Command Peterson AFB, CO, United States)
Date Acquired
August 12, 2013
Publication Date
March 1, 1985
Publication Information
Publication: NASA. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center Orbital Debris
Subject Category
Launch Vehicles And Space Vehicles
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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