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Optical observations for energetic characterization of in-orbit explosion: the FREGAT-SB case

Gaetano Zarcone1,Lorenzo Mariani1,Matteo Rossetti1,Lorenzo Cimino1,Shariar H. Hossein1,Fabrizio Piergentili1,Fabio Santoni1,Federico Curianò2
University of Rome "La Sapienza"1University of Rome “La Sapienza"2

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


Over the past years, the constant increase of space debris and inactive satellites is the root cause of catastrophic events, such as collision between a debris and active satellites. One of the events that might generate a large number of debris is the in-orbit explosion. Within this complex framework, it is of paramount importance to use a monitoring and surveillance system in order to understand the number and the distribution of fragments, in an area around the Earth extremely populated by man-made object. This entails a growing international interest in Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST), where optical observation reaches an interesting method to obtain information of orbital objects. In this paper, the Sapienza Space Systems and Space Surveillance Laboratory (S5Lab) presents the results of an observative campaign focused on the energetical characterization of the explosion and the monitoring of the fragments, which have been generated by a low orbit explosion of the third Russian stage rocket FREGAT-SB (ID 37756). The event occurred on 08.05.2020 between 04:00 and 06:00 UTC time. Through the observatory system Sapienza Coupled University Debris Observatory (SCUDO) located in Collepardo (FR, Italy), a certain number of images have been collected. The observation strategy was focused on the orbital plane to try to estimate the number of these fragments and their distribution. Once the astrometry phase to retrieve the measures in terms of right ascension and declination was performed, a first analysis is carried on to understand whether or not the fragments are already present in the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) catalogue. The ones that are not catalogued could be FREGAT’s fragments. The next energetic characterization method is based on a tangential impulse assignment in agreement with isotropic explosion and the evolution of fragments’ cloud, where the important variations, to a first approximation, are on semiaxes and eccentricity. As a result of this procedure, an association between the impulse and the measure takes place. The analysis of the angular distance between original body and the fragments over the time is carried out, in order to validate this method. Moreover, a magnitude estimation procedure is shown. All these results are compared with those obtained with the NORAD assignment.