Introduction of Research

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Research on modeling the space debris environment

Overview of research

Space debris modeling research provides fundamental knowledge about current and future environments for investigating the appropriate countermeasures for space debris.

JAXA has been evaluating the future space debris population and collision probability using an evolutionary debris model named NEODEEM, developed in collaboration with Kyushu University. Space agencies including JAXA are discussing international guidelines on the mitigation of space debris at the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), using each evolutionary debris model to evaluate effective mitigation measures.

Fig. 1 shows the future space debris population predicted by six IADC member agencies, based on the same initial population. It shows that even with full compliance regarding commonly adopted mitigation measures, the quantity of space debris will continue to increase through collisions between existing debris objects already in orbit. Revision of the mitigation guidelines has recently been discussed in view of the drastic increase in the number of small satellites, and large constellations consisting of hundreds or thousands of satellites are being planned.

Fig. 2 shows the effect of active debris removal. By removing five large debris objects in crowded orbits every year, the number of objects can be suppressed. The evolutionary debris model can help us evaluate which debris object should be removed, how many debris objects should be removed, etc.

Fig. 1. Projection od debris population at IADC
IADC-12-08, Rev.1 January, Stability of Future LEO Environment, Working Group 2 Action Item 27.1
Fig. 2. Effect of active debris removal

Small debris objects ranging in size from sub-millimeters to a few centimeters are difficult to observe from the ground, resulting in great uncertainty about the volume of such debris. Spacecraft require an efficient and protective design against the hypervelocity impacts of small debris objects. As some debris objects are too large to protect against, preventing the generation of such critical size debris objects is essential for preserving the space environment. An in-situ debris sensor used to measure small debris objects is being studied in order to improve the debris model.

Fig. 3. In-situ debris sensor

Research achievements

  • Kawamoto, S., Hirai, T., Kitajima, S., Abe, S., Hanada, T.: Evaluation of Space Debris Mitigation Measures Using a Debris Evolutionary Model, Trans. JSASS Aerospace Tech. Japan, Vol.16, pp.599-603, 2018.
  • Zemoura, M., Hanada, T., Kawamoto, S.: Removal targets' classification: how time considerations modify the definition of the index, Advances in Space Research, Vol.60, pp.1163-1187, 2017.
  • Maki Nakamura, Yukihito Kitazawa, Haruhisa Matsumoto, Osamu Okudaira, Toshiya Hanada, Akira Sakurai, Kunihiro Funakoshi, Tetsuo Yasaka, Sunao Hasegawa, Masanori Kobayashi: Development of in-situ micro-debris measurement system, Advances in Space Research, Vol.56, pp.436–448, 2015.