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Orbital Debris Mitigation and CubeSats

Chris Ostrom1,John N. Opiela2
HX5-Jacobs JETS Contract1Jacobs2

Document details

Publishing year2021 PublisherESA Space Debris Office Publishing typeConference Name of conference8th European Conference on Space Debris
Pagesn/a Volume
T. Flohrer, S. Lemmens, F. Schmitz


The 2019 update to the U. S. Government Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices (ODMSP) included CubeSats as a special class of space operations for the first time. This is the first governmental-level policy document that calls for CubeSats to follow quantitative recommendations for orbital debris mitigation. While CubeSats were never exempt from such recommendations, mission designers often “under assess” CubeSats due to their small size and historically low level of stored energy. Qualitative assessments of debris potential are less applicable as miniaturized energy systems (propulsive and electrical) become more available and as the “CubeSat” label is applied to larger payloads. Of particular interest to the long-term evolution of the debris environment is the likelihood of accidental explosion or collision; we must also consider the risk to the human population from reentering spacecraft. We discuss the on-orbit history of CubeSats and present guidance to assist in designing for future compliance with the new standard practices.