On-Orbit Resident Space Object (RSO) Detection Using Commercial Grade Star Trackers
Clemens, Samuel David
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The resident space object (RSO) population, including both functioning satellites and on-orbit debris, has grown to the point where dedicated ground and space-based networks are needed to maintain up-to-date catalogues of their orbits. Current tracking efforts are effective but some RSOs can go weeks without having their orbits updated, making estimates of their positions very inaccurate and effectively useless. I propose complementing current tracking efforts using commercial-grade star trackers (popular attitude determination sensors for satellites). This proposal is a novel approach that has not been implemented before. To determine their feasibility for RSO detection, a simulator was developed to estimate the detection rates of star trackers. Detection rates vary greatly but can exceed 1,200 RSOs/day (over 6% of the catalogued population). More research needs to be done, but these results, paired with their low costs, suggest that star trackers may be a cost-effective means to complement the current tracking networks.