Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Investigation of Orbital Debris: Mitigation, Removal, and Modeling the Debris Population
by Slotten, Joel, Ph.D., The George Washington University, 2016, 107; 10001612
Abstract (Summary)

The population of objects in orbit around Earth has grown since the late 1950s. Today there are over 21,000 objects over 10 cm in length in orbit, and an estimated 500,000 more between 1 and 10 cm. Only a small fraction of these objects are operational satellites. The rest are debris: old derelict spacecraft or rocket bodies, fragments created as the result of explosions or collisions, discarded objects, slag from solid rockets, or even flaked off paint. Traveling at up to 7 km/s, a collision with even a 1 cm piece of debris could severely damage or destroy a satellite. This dissertation examines three aspects of orbital debris. First, the concept of a self-consuming satellite is explored. This nanosatellite would use its own external structure as propellant to execute a deorbit maneuver at the end of its operational life, thus allowing it to meet current debris mitigation standards. Results from lab experiments examining potential materials for this concept have shown favorable results. Second, Particle in Cell techniques are modified and used to model the plasma plume from a micro-cathode arc thruster. This model is then applied to the concept of an ion beam shepherd satellite. This satellite would use its plasma plume to deorbit another derelict satellite. Results from these simulations indicate the micro-cathode arc thruster could potentially deorbit a derelict CubeSat in a matter of a few weeks. Finally, the orbital debris population at geosynchronous orbit is examined, focusing on variations in the density of the population as a function of longitude. New insights are revealed demonstrating that the variation in population density is slightly less than previously reported.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Keidar, Michael
Commitee: Brieda, Lubos, Lee, Taeyoung, Pentrin, Allen, Shashurin, Alexey
School: The George Washington University
Department: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-B 77/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Aerospace engineering
Keywords: Electric propulsion, Geosynchronous orbit, Micro-propulsion, Orbital debris
Publication Number: 10001612
ISBN: 978-1-339-41544-4
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