Lifetime and Reentry Survivability Estimation for Orbiting Objects


The increase of space debris has raised concern among scientists and researchers globally. They are mostly found in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Due to their high orbital velocity, any collision with other space objects may result in a disaster as well as produce other debris. To predict the orbital information regarding the velocity and position of an object, different techniques such as semi-analytic, general and special perturbation have been employed by various space agencies.

These orbiting objects eventually reenter the Earth’s atmosphere because lifetime of the orbiting objects in the LEO is limited due to perturbations such as atmospheric drag. In this regard, reentry analysis codes have been developed to verify the conformability of the space debris and satellites to the set mitigation standards. These codes can be grouped as spacecraft-oriented code like Object Reentry Survival Analysis Tool (ORSAT) or object-oriented code like Spacecraft Atmospheric Reentry and Aerothermal Breakup (SCARAB). However, most of the codes are not open to the public. Although there are a few open codes such as Debris Assessment Software (DAS) and Debris Risk Assessment and Mitigation Analysis (DRAMA), they have some limitations compared to the ORSAT and SCARAB, implying a self-development is required.

Since an increase in the number of space debris poses a continual threat to the space assets and the Earth, it is critical to collect their data and prepare for the risk. Seong-Hyeon Park and Gisu Park at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in collaboration with Hae-Dong Kim at Korea Aerospace Research Institute developed an integrated system which has a reasonable level of computational power as well as accuracy for the orbit, orbital lifetime and reentry survivability estimation modules of the orbital objects. They compared each module of the integrated system with the results of the existing codes for the same initial conditions. They utilized Science and Technology Satellite-3 (STSAT-3) as the test model for both the reentry survivability and orbital lifetime prediction. Furthermore, the true anomaly effects and its sensitivity were investigated using the Monte Carlo simulation with the reentry initial conditions as the elements at the end of the orbital lifetime. The authors observed that the same number of surviving parts of STSAT-3 irrespective of the difference in the true anomaly because the near-Earth satellites with small eccentricity reach a circular orbit at the end of it’s lifetime due to its energy loss. However, elliptical orbits exhibited a significance in the survivability. Their work is published in the journal, Advances in Space Research.

The study is the first to successfully develop an integrated system within a single manuscript for the orbit, orbital lifetime and reentry survivability estimation of the orbiting objects. According to the authors, true anomaly effect is very important for survivability and reentry trajectory. The agreement between the modules and the existing codes confirmed the effectiveness of the developed integrated system. The authors hoped to contribute to the development of the national Space Situational Awareness (SSA) system.

Lifetime and Reentry Survivability Estimation for Orbiting Objects, Advances in Engineering
Block diagram of the integrated system. (Credit Journal Advances in Space Research, volume 62 (2018) pages 3012-3032.)


About the author

Mr. Seong-Hyeon Park is a Ph.D. student in the department of aerospace engineering at KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), Republic of Korea. He received his M.S. degree in 2016 from KAIST. His research interests include aerothermodynamics, aerodynamics, hypersonic flow, catalytic recombination, flow-structure interactions and the system development for reentry space debris.

About the author

Dr. Gisu Park is an assistant professor in the department of aerospace engineering at KAIST. He received his Ph.D. degree in 2010 from The University of New South Wales. His research interests include hypersonic flows, high-speed ground-tests, and non-equilibrium gas-surface interaction.

About the author

Dr. Hae-Dong Kim got a BA and MA in Aerospace Engineering (1994, 1996) from the Pusan National University and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering (2009) from KAIST. He started as a research engineer in Hyudai Aircraft and Space Ltd. since 1996 and joined Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) since 2000. He took part in many research projects, carrying out his research activities in many fields concerning orbital mechanics, mission control system, and space mission design and analysis. He is also a professor since 2009 in Aerpspace systems engineering at Korea University of Science and Technology (UST).


Park, S., Kim, H., & Park, G. (2018). Orbit, orbital lifetime, and reentry survivability estimation for orbiting objects. Advances in Space Research, volume 62 (11), pages 3012-3032.

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