The effect of satellite breakups over 72 years, as a function of the end-of-life re-orbiting altitude (0–2000 km), was analyzed in terms of fragment contribution to the object density in the geostationary orbit (GEO) ring, both in the short- and long-term. In the short-term, the explosions in GEO are the most detrimental for the GEO ring environment, though the average fragment density in the ring is never higher than 1/5 of the background, decreasing to less than 1/100 of the existing environment after 4 years (apart from a density rebound 5 decades later, due to luni-solar perturbations). Spacecraft end-of-life re-orbiting is a possible mitigation solution. But the re-orbiting altitude is critical if explosions continue to occur. In order to reduce the post-event average density by 1 order of magnitude with respect to an explosion occurring in GEO, more than 500 km of re-orbiting is needed. Concerning the long-term environmental impact, the re-orbiting strategy supported by Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) seems adequate to guarantee, after 2–3 years, a long-term average density of fragments in the GEO ring of at least 2 orders of magnitude below the existing background. But at least 1000 km of re-orbiting are needed to stay below that threshold in the short-term too. In conclusion, the re-orbiting strategy recommended by IADC is totally adequate in the long-term, but only if satellite passivation is extensively carried out.
Space Debris – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 30, 2004
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