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Wednesday, February 3 • 09:20 - 09:40
Space Debris - From Mitigation Guidelines to Daily Operations

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Space debris is the collection of defunct objects in orbit around Earth, including spent rocket stages, lost or released mission equipment, old satellites and fragments from disintegration, erosion and collisions.   Debris orbit the Earth alongside operational satellites, often intersecting their orbits.  This growing cloud of debris in Low-Earth Orbit is widely recognized as a problem that can no longer be ignored by space faring nations, particularly since the 2007 Fengyun-1C disintegration and the 2009 Cosmos2251/Iridium33 collision resulted in thousands of new pieces of uncontrolled space debris in valuable Low-Earth-Orbits (LEO).

All space actors recognize the importance of avoiding the Kessler syndrome, where new collisions would create new debris at a rate faster than natural forces could remove them, resulting in a runaway chain reaction of cascading collisions and rendering Earth orbit impossible to use for generations.  Some computer models predict that the critical density for the Kessler Syndrome may have already been reached in certain orbital bands such as the critical sun-synchronous polar orbit at ~800km which is used for Earth observation satellites and where some high-profile debris creation events have occurred.  Satellites in these orbits must routinely take corrective measures (collision avoidance maneuvers) when warned of impending high-risk close approaches.  However, many operational satellites are non-maneuverable, making them perpetually at risk for any space debris that might intersect their orbits. 

At the international level, the Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space as well as the Inter Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee established guidelines for space debris mitigation. At the national level, countries have established corresponding measures. These guidelines and measures aim at both reducing the generation of potentially harmful space debris in the near term as well as limiting the generation over the long term.

Today’s space debris sensors are able to detect and track only a relatively small percentage – some 23,000 pieces of debris objects larger than 10cm - with some 500,000 smaller space debris objects going undetected.  For tracked space debris, satellite owners and operators are routinely warned by the United States’ Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) about upcoming close approaches that threaten their operational satellites. The presentation will also review measures in place to daily manage the issues facing operational satellites.

avatar for David Kendall

David Kendall

Chair, UN COPUOS (2016-17), Canadian Space Agency

avatar for Michel Doyon

Michel Doyon

Manager, Flight Operation, Canadian Space Agency
Michel Doyon is the Flight Operations Manager in the Satellite Operations, Infrastructures and applications directorate at the Canadian Space Agency. He joined the Canadian Space Agency in 1998 as a control systems engineer and occupied several functions within the Space Technology Sector namely as regards Space Technology Development. Since 2009, he manages satellites under the responsibility of the CSA (RADARSAT-1 until 2014, SCISAT, NEOSSAT... Read More →

Wednesday February 3, 2016 09:20 - 09:40
Champagne Ballroom 45 The Esplanade, Toronto, ON M5E 1W2

Attendees (20)