Optical Light Curve Observations to Determine Attitude States of Space Debris

Silha, Jiri; Linder, Esther; Hager, Monika; Schildknecht, Thomas (2015). Optical Light Curve Observations to Determine Attitude States of Space Debris. In: Proceedings of 30th International Symposium on Space Technology and Science. Kobe, Japan.

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The currently proposed space debris remediation measures include the active removal of large objects and “just in time” collision avoidance by deviating the objects using, e.g., ground-based lasers. Both techniques require precise
knowledge of the attitude state and state changes of the target objects. In the former case, to devise methods to grapple the target by a tug spacecraft, in the latter, to precisely propagate the orbits of potential collision partners as disturbing forces like air drag and solar radiation pressure depend on the attitude of the objects. Non-resolving optical observations of the magnitude variations, so-called light curves, are a promising technique to determine rotation or tumbling rates and the orientations of the actual rotation axis of objects, as well as their temporal changes. The 1-meter telescope ZIMLAT of the Astronomical Institute of the University of Bern has been used to collect
light curves of MEO and GEO objects for a considerable period of time. Recently, light curves of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) targets were acquired as well. We present different observation methods, including active tracking using a CCD subframe readout technique, and the use of a high-speed scientific CMOS
camera. Technical challenges when tracking objects with poor orbit redictions, as well as different data reduction methods are addressed. Results from a survey of abandoned rocket upper stages in LEO, examples of abandoned payloads and observations of high area-to-mass ratio debris will be resented. Eventually, first results of the analysis of these light curves are provided.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Astronomy

UniBE Contributor:

Silha, Jiri; Linder, Esther; Hager, Monika and Schildknecht, Thomas


500 Science > 520 Astronomy




Alessandro Vananti

Date Deposited:

14 Dec 2015 16:42

Last Modified:

28 Nov 2020 02:26





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