Status Report

Optical technologies for the observation of low Earth orbit objects

By SpaceRef Editor
January 30, 2015
Filed under ,

Daniel Hampf, Paul Wagner, Wolfgang Riede

(Submitted on 23 Jan 2015)

In order to avoid collisions with space debris, the near Earth orbit must be continuously scanned by either ground- or spaced-based facilities. For the low Earth orbit, radar telescopes are the workhorse for this task, especially due to their continuous availability. However, optical observation methods can deliver complementary information, especially towards high accuracy measurements. Passive-optical observations are inexpensive and can yield very precise information about the apparent position of the object in the sky via comparison with background stars. However, the object’s distance from the observer is not readily accessible, which constitutes a major drawback of this approach for the precise calculation of the orbital elements. Two experimental methods have been devised to overcome this problem: Using two observatories a few kilometres apart, strictly simultaneous observations of the same object yield an accurate, instantaneous 3D position determination through measurement of the parallax. If only one observatory is available, a pulsed laser can be used in addition to the passive-optical channel to measure the distance to the object, in a similar fashion as used by the satellite laser ranging community. However, compared to conventional laser ranging, a stronger laser and more elaborate tracking algorithms are necessary. The two approaches can also be combined by illuminating the object with a pulsed laser from one observatory and measuring the return times at both observatories. These techniques are explored by German Aerospace Center in Stuttgart using its orbital debris research observatory, in cooperation with the Satellite Laser Ranging station in Graz and the Geodetic Observatory in Wettzell. This contribution will present some of the results and plans for further measurement campaigns.

Comments:8 pages, 5 figures, Proc. of IAC 2014 (Toronto)

Subjects:Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Space Physics (

Cite as:arXiv:1501.05736 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:1501.05736v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)

Submission history

From: Daniel Hampf  

[v1] Fri, 23 Jan 2015 08:22:52 GMT (4374kb,D)


SpaceRef staff editor.