Active space debris removal-A preliminary mission analysis and design
Castronuovo, Marco
Jan - 2011
DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2011.04.017

journal : Acta Astronautica

Volume : 69 ; Issue : 9-10
type: Article Journal

The active removal of five to ten large objects per year from the low Earth orbit (LEO) region is the only way to prevent the debris collisions from cascading. Among the three orbital regions near the Earth where most catastrophic collisions are predicted to occur, the one corresponding to a sun-synchronous condition is considered the most relevant. Forty-one large rocket bodies orbiting in this belt have been identified as the priority targets for removal. As part of a more comprehensive system engineering solution, a space mission dedicated to the de-orbiting of five rocket bodies per year from this orbital regime has been designed. The selected concept of operations envisages the launch of a satellite carrying a number of de-orbiting devices, such as solid propellant kits. The satellite performs a rendezvous with an identified object and mates with it by means of a robotic arm. A de-orbiting device is attached to the object by means of a second robotic arm, the object is released and the device is activated. The spacecraft travels then to the next target. The present paper shows that an active debris removal mission capable of de-orbiting 35 large objects in 7 years is technically feasible, and the resulting propellant mass budget is compatible with many existing platforms.

keywords : Capture, Low Earth orbit (LEO), Removal, Space debris