Assessing and minimizing collisions in satellite mega-constellations

Nathan Reiland, Aaron J. Rosengren, Renu Malhotra, Claudio Bombardelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We aim to provide satellite operators and researchers with an efficient means for evaluating and mitigating collision risk during the design process of mega-constellations. We first establish a baseline for evaluating various techniques for close-encounter prediction and collision-probability calculation (Hoots et al. 1984, Gronchi 2005, JeongAhn and Malhotra 2015) by carrying out brute-force numerical simulations and using a sequence of filters to greatly reduce the computational expense of the algorithm. Next, we estimate conjunction events in the orbital environment following the anticipated deployments of the OneWeb LEO and SpaceX Starlink mega-constellations. As a final step, we investigate Minimum Space Occupancy (MiSO) orbits (Bombardelli et al. 2018), a generalization of the well-known frozen orbits that account for the perturbed-Keplerian dynamics of the Earth- Moon-Sun-satellite system. We evaluate the ability of MiSO configurations of the proposed mega-constellations, as suggested by Bombardelli et al. 2018, to reduce the risk of endogenous (intra-constellation) collisions. The results indicate that the adoption of the MiSO orbital configuration can significantly reduce risk with nearly indistinguishable adjustments to the nominal orbital elements of the constellation satellites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Feb 2 2020


  • Dynamical evolution
  • Frozen orbits
  • Mega-Constellations
  • Satellite conjunction
  • Space debris
  • Stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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