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Analysis of the space debris impacts risk on the international space station. (English) Zbl 1010.70522
Summary: Öpik’s analytical expressions relate in a simple way the semimajor axis, eccentricity and inclination of the projectile orbit to the magnitude and direction of the relative velocity vector at impact on a given target on circular orbit. These interesting quantities, along with the impact probability of any given projectile, can be all represented on a suitable projection giving a comprehensive picture of the impact risk on the selected target. By means of this theory a complete analysis of the impact risk on the International Space Station (ISS) is performed. It is found that the large majority of the debris population is on orbits such that a correlation exists between their impact velocity on the ISS and the angle between the velocity vector of the impactor and that of the ISS. The impactor population also is separated in terms of nature of the projectiles, with most of the low-medium velocity ones being particles related to solid rocket motor slag condensates. On the other hand, the highest velocity projectiles are composed mainly by fragments of past in-orbit explosions. The flux of projectiles on the ISS has been calculated for the planned operative lifetime of the Station, by assuming a realistic scenario of the future debris environment evolution and the actual planned altitude profile for the ISS mission. There is a factor 2-3 variation of the flux due to the changing ISS altitude. The most dangerous part of the mission appears to be the central one, when the ISS will orbit at about 450 km above the Earth.

MSC:
70M20 Orbital mechanics
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