Space debris attitude simulation - ιOTA (In-Orbit Tumbling Analysis)

Kanzler, R.; Silha, Jiri; Schildknecht, Thomas; Fritsche, B.; Lips, T.; Krag, H. (2015). Space debris attitude simulation - ιOTA (In-Orbit Tumbling Analysis). In: Proceedings of AMOS Conference. Curran Associates, Inc.

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Today, there is little knowledge on the attitude state of decommissioned intact objects in Earth orbit. Observational means have advanced in the past years, but are still limited with respect to an accurate estimate of motion vector orientations and magnitude. Especially for the preparation of Active Debris Removal (ADR) missions as planned by ESA’s Clean Space initiative or contingency scenarios for ESA spacecraft like ENVISAT, such knowledge is needed. ESA's “Debris Attitude Motion Measurements and Modelling” project (ESA Contract No. 40000112447), led by the Astronomical Institute of the University of Bern (AIUB), addresses this problem. The goal of the project is to achieve a good understanding of the attitude evolution and the considerable internal and external effects which occur. To characterize the attitude state of selected targets in LEO and GTO, multiple observation methods are combined. Optical observations are carried out by AIUB, Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) is performed by the Space Research Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IWF) and radar measurements and signal level determination are provided by the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques (FHR). The In-Orbit Tumbling Analysis tool (ιOTA) is a prototype software, currently in development by Hyperschall Technologie Göttingen GmbH (HTG) within the framework of the project. ιOTA will be a highly modular software tool to perform short-(days), medium-(months) and long-term (years) propagation of the orbit and attitude motion (six degrees-of-freedom) of spacecraft in Earth orbit. The simulation takes into account all relevant acting forces and torques, including aerodynamic drag, solar radiation pressure, gravitational influences of Earth, Sun and Moon, eddy current damping, impulse and momentum transfer from space debris or micro meteoroid impact, as well as the optional definition of particular spacecraft specific influences like tank sloshing, reaction wheel behaviour, magnetic torquer activity and thruster firing. The purpose of ιOTA
is to provide high accuracy short-term simulations to support observers and potential ADR missions, as well as medium-and long-term simulations to study the significance of the particular internal and external influences on the attitude, especially damping factors and momentum transfer. The simulation will also enable the investigation of the altitude dependency of the particular external influences. ιOTA's post-processing modules will generate synthetic measurements for observers and for software validation. The validation of the software will be done by cross-calibration with observations and measurements acquired by the project partners.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Astronomy

UniBE Contributor:

Silha, Jiri and Schildknecht, Thomas


500 Science > 520 Astronomy




Curran Associates, Inc.




Alessandro Vananti

Date Deposited:

14 Dec 2015 16:34

Last Modified:

28 Nov 2020 02:26

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