Orbital debris is a growing concern due to the continuous and rapid accumulation of objects in space, including expended satellites, satellite or launch vehicle components, and fragments resulting from the collision between space objects. The number of significant satellite breakup events has averaged about four per year and the cataloged debris population (10 cm in size or larger) has increased at a nearly constant linear rate of 200 objects per year since the beginning of the space age.
Satellites are required to meet the 25-year rule, which is a limitation in the maximum orbital lifetime for orbiting spacecraft proposed in 2002 by the United Nations Inter Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC). The 25-year rule was slightly revised in 2007 in order to reduce the buildup of orbital debris. Despite this and other numerous debris mitigation policies enacted and followed internationally, space junk is a growing environmental concern in many orbits. The Department of Defense (DoD) Instruction 3100.12, Space Support, requires satellites operating in LEO to de-orbit in less than 25 years at end of life (EOL); similar requirements are imposed by NASA under NSS 1740.14.
Deorbit concepts have been proposed for dealing with the growing problems posed by orbital debris. Most devices use large structures that interact with the atmosphere, magnetic field, or solar environment to deorbit large objects more rapidly than natural decay. Some devices may be better than others relative to the likelihood of collisions during their use.
This Cybrary is a repository that contains a wealth of information associated with Orbital Space Debris Mitigation, including research papers, topical information, and links.
Papers can be submitted to the Cybrary and, once they are approved by the Cybrary manager, they will be posted.