Space debris environment and effects modeling

Kenneth W. Yates, Scott R. Maethner, David B. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Space can be a hazardous place to do business. Space vehicles that operate in this domain are exposed to a variety natural and man-made hazards. One such hazard is caused by interactions with the population of natural and man-made space debris. Determining the current debris population is the first step toward quantifying this hazard. Ground based sensors currently track and maintain orbits of the largest objects in this population. Statistical estimates of the population of smaller objects have also recently been made. The second step toward quantifying the hazard is to use models to estimate future debris populations and the effects they could have on future space operations. The USAF Phillips Laboratory is currently developing such a model as part of its space debris research program. The model is called the Debris Environment and Effects Program (DEEP). The purpose of the paper is to introduce the DEEP approach of estimating the hazards to low-Earth orbit (LEO) space operations from space debris, summarize recent developments, and outline development plans. experiments and theoretical calculations have demonstrated that a collision with such an object could cause serious damage and create additional debris.1 The possibility for future growth of the debris environment (especially in the unmeasured smaller sizes) and the corresponding impact on space vehicle mission performance must be assessed. The challenge lies in not only characterizing the current environment but in estimating the effects of future environments on space operations. The USAF Phillips Laboratory is currently developing the Debris Environment and Effects Program (DEEP) to estimate the debris hazards to LEO space operations. DEEP is being developed to 1) estimate a range of possible future debris environments based on a variety of parameters, 2) determine the collision hazard for specific vehicles operating in these environments, 3) determine the effects of potential collisions on vehicle mission performance and 4) evaluate the effects of implementing various options for mitigating man-made debris. This paper introduces the model, summarizes its most recent developments, and outlines plans for future development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 1995
Event33rd Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit, 1995 - Reno, United States
Duration: Jan 9 1995Jan 12 1995


Other33rd Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit, 1995
Country/TerritoryUnited States

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Aerospace Engineering


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