Seminar 5th December 2016 10 a.m. 176/2013
Space Debris Modelling: Past, Present and Future
Dr Hugh Lewis
University of Southampton
Low Earth orbit (LEO) is experiencing a renaissance thanks to increasing commercialisation: what was the principal domain of governments and space agencies, with multi-billion dollar budgets, large workforces, and lengthy programmes, is becoming the province of an emerging industry that is revolutionising access to, and use of, space. The opportunities provided by small satellites are enabling diminutive companies and start-ups, in particular, to make a significant impact on the space economy. With plans by some companies to develop large constellations of small, low-cost satellites in LEO, there is growing concern within space agencies about the long-term consequences of the ubiquitous and rapid commercialisation. Relevant and meaningful space debris mitigation guidelines that can be implemented by all satellites and their operators are needed, and this is where space debris modelling provides an important contribution. Space debris models can be used to identify and evaluate debris mitigation measures under a wide range of conditions and several key measures, such as those produced by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), have relied on assessments performed using a variety of models. Using results from these models, including some developed at the University of Southampton, this talk will explore how mitigation measures have been established in the past and what challenges exist for the future, especially in relation to the growth of small satellites and large constellations.
Dr Lewis is a Senior Lecturer and Head of the Astronautics Research Group at the University of Southampton. He is a member of the UK Space Agency delegation to the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) and the Space Missions Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG), and a member of the expert group on Space Debris, Space Operations and Tools to Support Space Situational Awareness, which reports to the United Nations Working Group on the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities.