Assessing and minimizing collisions in satellite mega-constellations

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

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 introduce a novel algorithm for conjunction prediction that relies on large-scale numerical simulations and uses a sequence of filters to greatly reduce its computational expense. We then use this brute-force algorithm to establish baselines of endogenous (intra-constellation), or self-induced, conjunction events for the FCC-reported designs of the OneWeb LEO and SpaceX Starlink mega-constellations. We demonstrate how these deterministic results can be used to validate more computationally efficient, stochastic techniques for close-encounter prediction by adopting a new probabilistic approach from Solar-System dynamics as a simple test case. Finally, we show how our methodology can be applied during the design phase of large constellations by investigating Minimum Space Occupancy (MiSO) orbits, a generalization of classical frozen orbits that holistically account for the perturbed-Keplerian dynamics of the Earth-satellite-Moon-Sun system. The results indicate that the adoption of MiSO orbital configurations of the proposed mega-constellations can significantly reduce the risk of endogenous collisions with nearly indistinguishable adjustments to the nominal orbital elements of the constellation satellites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAdvances in Space Research
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Dynamical evolution and stability
  • Frozen orbits
  • Mega-constellations
  • Satellite conjunction
  • Space debris

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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