Photometric monitoring of non-resolved space debris and databases of optical light curves.

Schildknecht, Thomas; Linder, Esther; Silha, Jiri; Hager, Monika; Koshkin, N.; Korobeinikova, E.; Melikiants, S.; Shakun, L.; Strakhov, S. (2015). Photometric monitoring of non-resolved space debris and databases of optical light curves. In: Proceedings of AMOS Conference. Curran Associates, Inc.

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The population of space debris increased drastically during the last years. Collisions involving massive objects may produce large number of fragments
leading to significantly growth of the space debris population. An effective remediation measure in order to stabilize the population in LEO, is therefore the removal of large, massive space debris. To remove these objects, not only precise orbits, but also more detailed information about their attitude states will be required. One important property of an object targeted for removal is its spin period and spin axis orientation. If we observe a rotating object, the observer sees different surface areas of the object which leads to changes in the measured intensity. Rotating objects will produce periodic brightness vari
ations with frequencies which are related to the spin periods. Photometric monitoring is the real tool for remote diagnostics of the satellite rotation around its center of mass. This information is also useful, for example,
in case of contingency. Moreover, it is also important to take into account the
orientation of non-spherical body (e.g. space debris) in the numerical integration of its motion when a close approach with the another spacecr
aft is predicted. We introduce the two databases of light curves: the AIUB data
base, which contains about a thousand light curves of LEO, MEO and high-altitude debris objects (including a few functional objects) obtained over more than seven years, and the data base of the Astronomical Observatory of Odessa University (Ukraine), which contains the results of more than 10 years of photometric monitoring of functioning satellites and large space debris objects in low Earth orbit. AIUB used its 1m ZIMLAT telescope for all light curves. For tracking low-orbit satellites, the Astronomical Observatory of Odessa used the KT-50 telescope, which has an alt-azimuth mount and allows tracking objects moving at a high angular velocity. The diameter of the KT-50 main mirror is 0.5 m, and the focal length is 3 m. The Odessa's Atlas of
light curves includes almost 5,5 thousand light curves for ~500 correlated objects from a time period of 2005-2014. The processing of light curves and the determination of the rotation period in the inertial frame is challenging. Extracted frequencies and reconstructed phases for some interesting targets, e.g. GLONASS satellites, for which also SLR data were available for confirmation, will be presented. The rotation of the Envisat satellite after its sudden failure will be analyzed. The deceleration of its rotation rate within 3 years is studied together with the attempt to determine the orientation of the rotation axis.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Astronomy

UniBE Contributor:

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


500 Science > 520 Astronomy




Curran Associates, Inc.




Alessandro Vananti

Date Deposited:

21 Jan 2016 14:08

Last Modified:

09 Dec 2016 11:45

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