Skip to main content

ESA Optical Surveys to Characterize Recent Fragmentation Events in GEO and HEO

Thomas Schildknecht1,Tim Flohrer2,Alessandro Vananti1
University of Bern, Astronomical Institute (AIUB)1ESA/ESOC2

Document details

Publishing year2019 PublisherESA Space Safety Programme Office Publishing typeConference Name of conference1st NEO and Debris Detection Conference
Pagesn/a Volume
T. Flohrer, R. Jehn, F. Schmitz


Two major fragmentation events in GEO and HEO were observed in 2018. Based on measurements of the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) and the Roscosmos Automated Warning System on Hazardous Situations in Outer Space (ASPOS OKP) a fragmentation of the Titan 3C Transtage 1969-013B, SSN #3692 on February 28, 2018 was identified. More than 100 objects detected by optical instruments operated by ASPOS OKP, the Astronomical Scientific Center, ISON, ISTP RAS and other Russian scientific and research organizations could be clearly identified as fragmentation debris related to this event. Another massive fragmentation event in HEO related to the Atlas Centaur upper stage 2014-055B, SSN #40209, which occurred on August 30, was identified based on the same data sources. Many of the fragment of this event are crossing the operational GEO region.
ESA performed a coordinated survey campaign in October 2018 using its 1-m telescope at the OGS, Tenerife, complemented by sensors of the Swiss Optical Ground Station and Geodynamics Observatory Zimmerwald, Switzerland. The paper will describe the development of the survey strategy to search for additional fragments of the two mentioned events, the execution of the actual observation campaign including the handover of newly discovered objects to other sensors and the subsequent follow-up observations, and the main results of and lessons learned from this campaign.