Space Debris

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 1–19 | Cite as

Enhancement and Validation of the IDES Orbital Debris Environment Model

  • R. Walker
  • P.H. Stokes
  • J.E. Wilkinson
  • G.G. Swinerd


Orbital debris environment models are essential in predicting the characteristics of the entire debris environment, especially for altitude and size regimes where measurement data is sparse. Most models are also used to assess mission collision risk. The IDES (Integrated Debris Evolution Suite) simulation model has recently been upgraded by including a new sodium–potassium liquid coolant droplet source model and a new historical launch database. These and other features of IDES are described in detail. The accuracy of the IDES model is evaluated over a wide range of debris sizes by comparing model predictions to three major types of debris measurement data in low Earth orbit. For the large-size debris population, the model is compared with the spatial density distribution of the United States (US) Space Command Catalog. A radar simulation model is employed to predict the detection rates of mid-size debris in the field of view of the US Haystack radar. Finally, the small-size impact flux relative to a surface of the retrieved Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) spacecraft is predicted. At sub-millimetre sizes, the model currently under-predicts the debris environment encountered at low altitudes by approximately an order of magnitude. This is because other small-size debris sources, such as paint flakes have not yet been characterised. Due to the model enhancements, IDES exhibits good accuracy when predicting the debris environment at decimetre and centimetre sizes. Therefore, the validated initial conditions and the high fidelity future traffic model enables IDES to make long-term debris environment projections with more confidence.

debris measurements low Earth orbit model accuracy modelling and simulation orbital debris environment 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Walker
    • 1
  • P.H. Stokes
    • 1
  • J.E. Wilkinson
    • 1
  • G.G. Swinerd
    • 2
  1. 1.Space DepartmentDefence Evaluation & Research Agency, FarnboroughHants.UK
  2. 2.Department of Aeronautics & AstronauticsUniversity of SouthamptonHants.UK

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