LADAR Applications for Orbital Debris Removal

LADAR Applications for Orbital Debris Removal
Author(s):    Xiang Zhu
Published:   2015
DOI:             10.1117/3.2225994
eISBN: 9781628416763
Description:

LADAR is a key sensing technology for the relative navigation between a debris-removing satellite and a debris. Compared to cameras and radar, LADAR provides better information about a target’s range, speed, and 3D position. Although LADAR does not need sunlight to operate, it does require more resources on mass, volume, and power (MVP) than a passive sensor. The design of a space LADAR should achieve the required performance with minimum MVP.

This Spotlight describes the operational principle of an instrument based on the LADAR equation and summaries the requirements for debris removal. It discusses key LADAR components, such as lasers, detectors, and scanning optics, in terms of their performance in a space environment. The different types of LADAR are compared under different mission scenarios. A design of a compact space rangefinder is given as an example to explain basic design considerations. A design of an unobstructed 360-deg scanning LADAR is described to illustrate the benefits of a novel design for a mission that requires a wide FOV. Finally, some hybrid concepts that use scanning optics on the launching side and camera optics on the return side are discussed; they utilize the fact that there are no other objects around space debris that contribute solar background signal to gain performance while minimizing the MVP requirements.

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Orbital debris from defunct satellites, rocket stages, and/or fragments of disintegrated space objects increasingly clouds the orbit around Earth. This debris poses a significant collision threat to operational satellites and spacecraft.1 There are many concepts proposed to remove the orbital debris, with the most developed being a robotic debris-removal satellite, which would bring the debris into a low orbit to accelerate its entry into the atmosphere. This concept is shown in Fig. 1.

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