The near exponential rise of space debris at the satellite orbital altitudes (particularly in the low earth orbit (LEO) region) and the risk they pose for space assets is a source of major concern for all nations engaged in space activities. Considerable efforts are therefore being expended into accurate modeling and tracking of these objects and various ideas for the safe removal of these debris are being explored. The debris objects are likely to acquire a large amount of charge since they are typically found in a plasma environment - such as the earth’s ionospheric plasma in the LEO region (100 kms to 1000 kms) and the radiation belts in the geosynchronous orbit (GEO) region. The consequent flow of electron and ion currents on them lead to the accumulation of a large amount of surface charge and the development of a surface potential on these objects. The influence of the plasma environment on the dynamics and charging of the debris is a relatively unexplored area of Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and Space Debris (SD) research and can be potentially important for the accurate prediction of the long-term evolution of debris orbits and their collision probabilities with other space objects. In this paper we will report on the charging of space debris under a variety of orbital conditions in the LEO and GEO regions using both analytic and particle-in-cell (PIC) modeling. The analytic estimates are obtained using refined Orbit Motion Limited (OML) modeling while the simulation studies are carried out using the SPIS code . In the GEO region account is taken of charging due to photoemission processes as well as energetic beam charging. The PIC approach enables us to study charging of irregularly shaped debris objects as well as differential charging on objects that are composed of patches of conducting and insulated regions. The dynamical consequences of the debris charging on their orbital trajectories and rotational characteristics will be discussed.  J.-F. Roussel, F. Rogier, G. Dufour, J.-C. Mateo-Velez, J. Forest, A. Hilgers, D. Rodgers, L. Girard, and D. Payan, “SPIS open source code: Methods, capabilities, achievements and prospects,” IEEE Trans. Plasma Sci., vol. 36, no. 5, pp. 2360-2368, Oct. 2008.
40th COSPAR Scientific Assembly
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