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Center Independent Research & Development: JSC IRAD

Development of an End-to-End Active Debris Removal (ADR) Mission Strategic Plan

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Development of an End-to-End Active Debris Removal (ADR) Mission Strategic Plan

The original proposal was to develop an ADR mission strategic plan. However, the task was picked up by the OCT. Subsequently the award was de-scoped to $30K to collect light curve data to characterize the tumble motion of potential ADR targets. This information is very critical to identify the technologies that will be needed during the proximity operations, including rendezvous and docking, for future ADR mission planning.

Since the majority of the potential ADR targets are large (>meters) upper stages and payloads between 800 and 1100 km altitude, they are relatively bright, with visual magnitudes ranging from 5 to 7. Small telescopes are sufficient to collect their light curve data. However, due to the potential high tumble motion of the targets, a CCD camera with a frame rate up to 30/sec is needed. Identify an existing group with the necessary facility, equipment, experience, and capability for light curve observations of potential ADR targets in the low Earth orbit (LEO) region. Collect light curve data of at least 100 major ADR targets, including SL-8 Cosmos 3M second stages (2.4 m diameter by 6 m length; 1400 kg dry mass) and SL-16 Zenit second stages (4 m diameter by 12 m length; 8900 kg dry mass). Process raw data, obtain light curves, and analyze the data. Outcomes: A 4-month contract with the Air Force Academy was established in 2011. The Air Force Academy used one of their 16" telescopes equipped with a fast Andor CCD camera for the observations. A total of 126 targets were observed during the 4-month period (ended in February 2012). About half of the targets had multiple passes. All raw data were processed, and summary spreadsheets for individual targets were prepared and delivered by the Air Force Academy. Two abstracts on the observations and the implications for the tumble motions of the ADR targets for the 2012 International Astronautical Congress were submitted and accepted for presentation.

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This is a historic project that was completed before the creation of TechPort on October 1, 2012. Available data has been included. This record may contain less data than currently active projects.