Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologie dell'Informazione     
Pardini C., Anselmo L. Post-disposal orbital evolution of satellites and upper stages used by the GPS and glonass navigation constellations: the long-term impact on the medium earth orbit environment. In: IAC 2011 - 62nd International Astronautical Congress (Cape Town, South Africa, 3-7 October 2011). Proceedings, article n. IAC-11-A6.4.3. International Astronautical Federation, 2011.
The long-term evolution and environmental impact in MEO of all the abandoned spacecraft and upper stages associated with the GPS and GLONASS navigation constellations were analyzed. The orbits of the disposed objects, as of 1 May 2011, were propagated for 200 years and snapshots of their evolving distribution were obtained, together with an estimation of the changing collision probability with the spacecraft of the operational navigation systems existing or planned in MEO, i.e. GLONASS, GPS, Beidou and Galileo. The probability that the abandoned objects considered will collide with the operational spacecraft of the navigation constellations is very low, even taking into account the intrinsic eccentricity instability of the disposal orbits. Assuming the present or envisaged configuration of the constellations in MEO, the probability of collision, integrated over 200 years, would be < 1/300 with a GLONASS spacecraft, < 1/15,000 with a GPS or Beidou spacecraft, and < 1/250,000 with a Galileo spacecraft. The worst disposal strategy consists in abandoning satellites and upper stages close to the altitude of the operational constellation (GLONASS), while a re-orbiting a few hundred km away (GPS) is able to guarantee an effective long-term dilution of the collision risk, irrespective of the eccentricity instability due to geopotential and luni-solar perturbations. The disposal strategies applied so far to the GPS satellites should be able to guarantee for at least a few centuries a sustainable MEO environment free of collisions among intact objects. Consequently, there would be no need to adopt disposal schemes targeting also the optimal value of the eccentricity vector. However, it should be pointed out that the GPS disposal strategy was devised well in advance of the Beidou constellation announcement, so most of the abandoned satellites were re-orbited fairly close to the altitude of the new Chinese system. A new re-orbiting approach will be therefore needed in the future.
Subject GPS and GLONASS navigation constellations
Abandoned objects in MEO
Post-disposal orbital evolution
Collision risk in MEO
70M20 Orbital mechanics

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