Satellite constellations and the increasing number of satellites being launched into space are creating congestion and increasing the risk of collisions in low Earth orbit and the cislunar region. David Arnas, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics in Purdue University’s College of Engineering, is conducting research to address this issue.
Arnas and his graduate students are studying how to design better parking spots for satellites in areas closer to Earth and other parts of space, such as the cislunar region. As satellite constellations grow in size and number, accurately tracking them and ensuring long-term safety becomes challenging. By identifying new methods for analyzing satellite constellations and designing optimized orbits, Arnas aims to make space more equitable and reduce the likelihood of congestion.
Space debris is another concern. Within a month, debris from a satellite explosion or collision in low Earth orbit can cover the entire Earth. Arnas and his students are working on organizing satellite constellations to predict their reconfiguration in response to a massive debris cloud approaching. This involves optimizing satellite positions and maneuvers to avoid collisions. Arnas has also developed methods to estimate orbital capacity, reduce collision risks within constellations, and design resilient satellite orbits.
Currently, there are few policies regulating satellite placement in space. Arnas’s research will help inform decision-makers about the consequences of launching new satellites or establishing new constellations. By providing tools to assess the future capacity and sustainability of the space sector, policymakers can make more informed decisions.
In addition to addressing congestion in low Earth orbit, Arnas is exploring how resonant orbits can be used to design fuel-efficient trajectories for spacecraft traveling between Earth and the moon. This research has the potential to revolutionize space travel and enable the creation of a reusable infrastructure using tether structures to transport satellites.
Overall, Arnas’s research aims to ensure fair access to space and improve the safety and efficiency of satellite operations in low Earth orbit and the cislunar region.