Space debris modelling and situational awareness

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment


The attitude states of space objects have long been neglected in orbital determination and propa-
gation. The result of this is uncertainty in the positions of objects. There is an ongoing initiative
within the space industry to improve our tracking capabilities in order to improve the accuracy
with which the positions of space objects are known and can be predicted. Incorporating attitude
state would be one way of achieving this goal. Additionally, the results of debris modelling research has indicated a possibility of a collision driven growth in the low-Earth orbit debris population. Active Debris Removal (ADR), typically though a physical interface and de-orbit manoeuvre, has been suggested as a technique for mitigating
this growth. Attitude state information is of the utmost importance to an ADR mission both for
selecting a suitable object to remove and for carrying out the mission itself.
Determining the attitude state of an inactive space object requires external observation data,
typically radar or optical. Of all the available data types, none are more common than optical
light curves. It is therefore the objective of this research to develop techniques to derive information
on space object attitude state from optical light curve data.
In light of the going research in the field, the selected approach was to split the problem into a
forward model, and an inverse model. The forward model is responsible for generating accurate
synthetic light curves. The inverse model will then use parameter optimisation techniques to define possible attitude state solutions.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509747/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1941801 Studentship EP/N509747/1 09/01/2017 08/01/2020 Laurence Blacketer