Orbital Debris Projects Proliferate Following Welch Award (IDA Research Summary)

September, 2021
IDA document: D-22786
FFRDC: Systems and Analyses Center
Type: Research Summary/Research Insights
Division: Operational Evaluation Division
Joel E. Williamsen, Daniel L. Pechkis, Asha Balakrishnan, Stephen M. Ouellette See more authors
This summary describes how four researchers from different research organizations within IDA came together to win the 2020 IDA Welch Award for best external publication. With shared confidence in a proposed concept and similar expertise in assessments of space-related topics, this foursome’s research revealed that NASA models could be based on overly conservative predictions of orbital debris mass. These predictions could, in turn, be contributing to a potential overestimate of orbital debris risk to satellites in low Earth orbit. Since winning the award for a conference paper on their research into this concept, the authors have gone on to publish a follow-on article in the academic literature, organize an IDA forum to share expertise with civilian and military government organizations, and speak about orbital debris on the podcast IDA Ideas.