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Assessing collision algorithms for the newspace era

Assessing collision algorithms for the newspace era
Assessing collision algorithms for the newspace era
The ‘NewSpace’ era of the last two decades has seen increasing disruption and innovation in the space industry driven by a growing commercial element. A new investigation of spacecraft launched between 1980 and 2017 identified an increase in the number of spacecraft being deployed into similar target orbits. This has resulted in a shift from a more random spatial distribution of objects to a situation with greater spatial structure. With collisions expected to be an increasing and leading source of space debris it is important that we understand the performance of collision models and their sensitivity to the changing environment. We believe that current collision algorithms have the potential to introduce errors in the estimation of collision probabilities when modelling NewSpace scenarios. Two probabilistic algorithms, the Cube approach (Liou et al., 2003) and the Orbit Trace method (based on Öpik, 1951) were investigated for a range of scenarios.

An implementation of the Cube algorithm was verified using the original Jovian moons case and highlighted issues relating to convergence of the average collision probability for a pair of objects and to the relationship between the collision probability and the size of the cube used. Further tests compared the collision probabilities generated by the Satellite Orbital Conjunction Reports Assessing Threatening Encounters in Space (SOCRATES) against those calculated using each of the Cube and Orbit Trace algorithms in conjunction with the SGP4 propagator. Simulations of specific sub-sets of the tracked populations for well-defined time periods showed substantial discrepancies between the different collision methods.

The results suggest some inaccuracies in the currently used collision methods, introducing additional uncertainty to the rate of population growth in simulations of the evolution of the debris environment. Further work is ongoing to investigate the relationship between this variance and spacecraft altitude to ascertain whether current models are accurately representing where fragmentations might occur.
Collision probability, Debris models, New Space, Orbital debris
2468-8967
274-281
Diserens, Samuel Douglas
cf4d9d41-f067-4ee1-8fda-d691c46061aa
Lewis, Hugh G.
e9048cd8-c188-49cb-8e2a-45f6b316336a
Fliege, Joerg
54978787-a271-4f70-8494-3c701c893d98
Diserens, Samuel Douglas
cf4d9d41-f067-4ee1-8fda-d691c46061aa
Lewis, Hugh G.
e9048cd8-c188-49cb-8e2a-45f6b316336a
Fliege, Joerg
54978787-a271-4f70-8494-3c701c893d98

Diserens, Samuel Douglas, Lewis, Hugh G. and Fliege, Joerg (2020) Assessing collision algorithms for the newspace era. Journal of Space Safety Engineering, 7 (3), 274-281. (doi:10.1016/j.jsse.2020.07.021).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The ‘NewSpace’ era of the last two decades has seen increasing disruption and innovation in the space industry driven by a growing commercial element. A new investigation of spacecraft launched between 1980 and 2017 identified an increase in the number of spacecraft being deployed into similar target orbits. This has resulted in a shift from a more random spatial distribution of objects to a situation with greater spatial structure. With collisions expected to be an increasing and leading source of space debris it is important that we understand the performance of collision models and their sensitivity to the changing environment. We believe that current collision algorithms have the potential to introduce errors in the estimation of collision probabilities when modelling NewSpace scenarios. Two probabilistic algorithms, the Cube approach (Liou et al., 2003) and the Orbit Trace method (based on Öpik, 1951) were investigated for a range of scenarios.

An implementation of the Cube algorithm was verified using the original Jovian moons case and highlighted issues relating to convergence of the average collision probability for a pair of objects and to the relationship between the collision probability and the size of the cube used. Further tests compared the collision probabilities generated by the Satellite Orbital Conjunction Reports Assessing Threatening Encounters in Space (SOCRATES) against those calculated using each of the Cube and Orbit Trace algorithms in conjunction with the SGP4 propagator. Simulations of specific sub-sets of the tracked populations for well-defined time periods showed substantial discrepancies between the different collision methods.

The results suggest some inaccuracies in the currently used collision methods, introducing additional uncertainty to the rate of population growth in simulations of the evolution of the debris environment. Further work is ongoing to investigate the relationship between this variance and spacecraft altitude to ascertain whether current models are accurately representing where fragmentations might occur.

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Accepted manuscript - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 5 July 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 12 July 2020
Keywords: Collision probability, Debris models, New Space, Orbital debris

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 442515
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/442515
ISSN: 2468-8967
PURE UUID: 4b84e2cf-0a52-413f-8af4-a73c9f128720
ORCID for Samuel Douglas Diserens: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-5521-2041
ORCID for Joerg Fliege: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-4459-5419

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 17 Jul 2020 16:30
Last modified: 18 Feb 2021 17:11

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