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  • Bigger Fragments Bigger Picture – Characterizing DebriSat Fragments

    Paper number



    Ms. Samantha Allen, United States, University of Florida



    The DebriSat project was conceived to provide NASA and the DoD with an updated dataset to improve existing break-up models. One of the key sets of parameters used in the break-up models is the fragment’s physical characteristics including its characteristic length, average cross-sectional area, volume, and area-to-mass ratio. The DebriSat test article was engineered to obtain these parameters with components, materials, and processes commonly utilized in modern LEO satellites and subjected to a laboratory hypervelocity impact (HVI) test to emulate a catastrophic on-orbit collision. In the post-HVI phase, all fragments with at least one linear dimension greater than or equal to 2 mm are carefully collected, characterized, and recorded in the Debris Categorization System database. 
    After five years of processing fragments from the laboratory HVI test, over 189,000 fragments have been collected to date, comparatively higher than the 85,000 fragments predicted by the current break-up model. The fragments characterized to date equate to roughly 30% of the DebriSat satellite’s total mass, 29% of which is the result of characterizing larger fragments. In an effort to create a more efficient work flow, the focus for the past year has been to process these larger fragments. With this focus, the existing measurement systems have been updated and additional measurement systems have been implemented. Several improvements have been made on the size measurement systems to characterize the larger fragments and a mass measurement system capable of measuring heavier fragments has been added. Reflective of this, the characterization procedures now include the assessment of fragments recovered located outside of the panels in the HVI test chamber. With the addition and improvements to the measurement systems, associated procedures such as (i) fragment verification and (ii) reproducibility and repeatability tests have also been updated to include procedures for larger fragments. 
    This paper discusses the updates and additions to all post-HVI activities, characterization data, and the challenges encountered in effort to streamline all process while maintaining high-quality data amongst ever-changing technicians. The paper provides the orbital debris community with the latest on the project status, a glimpse into the current dataset, and difficulties faced while processing the DebriSat satellite fragments.
    Abstract document


    Manuscript document

    IAC-19,A6,3,3,x54244.pdf (🔒 authorized access only).

    To get the manuscript, please contact IAF Secretariat.