Celest Mech Dyn Astr (2018) 130:34
Natural highways for end-of-life solutions in the LEO
Elisa Maria Alessi
· Giulia Schettino
· Giovanni B. Valsecchi
Received: 25 May 2017 / Revised: 2 February 2018 / Accepted: 26 February 2018 /
Published online: 23 April 2018
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018
Abstract We present the main ﬁndings of a dynamical mapping performed in the Low Earth
Orbit region. The results were obtained by propagating an extended grid of initial conditions,
considering two different epochs and area-to-mass ratios, by means of a singly averaged
numerical propagator. It turns out that dynamical resonances associated with high-degree
geopotential harmonics, lunisolar perturbations and Solar radiation pressure can open natural
deorbiting highways. For area-to-mass ratios typical of the orbiting intact objects, these
corridors can be exploited only in combination with the action exerted by the atmospheric
drag. For satellites equipped with an area augmentation device, we show the boundary of
application of the drag, and where the Solar radiation pressure can be exploited.
Keywords Eccentricity growth · Resonances · LEO · Passive mitigation · SRP
Thanks to the effort made by scientists, public organizations and industries worldwide, there
now exists a strong awareness on the value of preserving the circumterrestrial environment for
future generations. The need of controlling the debris environment and limiting the growth
of its population is addressed at several levels, which include, among others, long-term
modeling, operational activities like collision avoidance operations and reentry campaigns,
and mitigation actions.
For its strategic importance and its well-attested unstable evolution (Liou et al. 2013),
the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) region is, in particular, subject to a thorough assessment by
the community. The consequences of possible fragmentations in the long-term, active and
This article is part of the topical collection on Close Approaches and Collisions in Planetary Systems.
Guest Editors: Rudolf Dvorak, Christoph Lhotka and Alessandra Celletti.
Elisa Maria Alessi
IFAC-CNR, via Madonna del Piano 10, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino, FI, Italy
IAPS-INAF, via Fosso del Cavaliere 100, 00133 Rome, Italy