Apparent rotation properties of space debris extracted from photometric measurements

Silha, Jiri; Pittet, Jean-Noël; Hamara, M.; Schildknecht, Thomas (2018). Apparent rotation properties of space debris extracted from photometric measurements. Advances in space research, 61(3), pp. 844-861. Pergamon 10.1016/j.asr.2017.10.048

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Knowledge about the rotation properties of space debris objects is essential for the active debris removal missions, accurate re-entry predictions and to investigate the long-term effects of the space environment on the attitude motion change. Different orbital regions and object’s physical properties lead to different attitude states and their change over time. Since 2007 the Astronomical Institute of the University of Bern (AIUB) performs photometric measurements of space debris objects. To June 2016 almost 2000 light curves of more than 400 individual objects have been acquired and processed. These objects are situated in all orbital regions, from low Earth orbit (LEO), via global navigation systems orbits and high eccentricity orbit (HEO), to geosyn-chronous Earth orbit (GEO). All types of objects were observed including the non-functional spacecraft, rocket bodies, fragmentation debris and uncorrelated objects discovered during dedicated surveys. For data acquisition, we used the 1-meter Zimmerwald Laser and Astrometry Telescope (ZIMLAT) at the Swiss Optical Ground Station and Geodynamics Observatory Zimmerwald, Switzerland. We applied our own method of phase-diagram reconstruction to extract the apparent rotation period from the light curve. Presented is the AIUB’s light curve database and the obtained rotation properties of space debris as a function of object type and orbit.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Astronomy

UniBE Contributor:

Silha, Jiri; Pittet, Jean-Noël and Schildknecht, Thomas


500 Science > 520 Astronomy








Alessandro Vananti

Date Deposited:

01 May 2018 10:59

Last Modified:

10 Nov 2019 06:53

Publisher DOI:





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