Lethal Debris Creation following Untracked Orbital Debris Impacts on a SmallSat Constellation

September, 2023
IDA document: D-33448
FFRDC: Systems and Analyses Center
Type: Documents , Space
Division: Operational Evaluation Division
Joel E. Williamsen; James F. Heagy; Peter M. Mancini; Hannah S. Yi; Courtney A. Au-Yeung; Daniel L. Pechkis; Robert F. Stellingwerf See more authors
Untracked orbital debris, caused by impacts, explosions and other energetic events, proliferates in low Earth orbit. Some of this debris has the potential to be lethal, ending a satellite’s intended mission following a collision or creating additional lethal debris. This paper broadly defines two levels of lethal orbital debris — marginal and catastrophic — to evaluate satellite lifetimes and hazards. It also quantifies how much mission-lethal debris is created from untracked debris collisions.