TSU scientists will create an algorithm for disposal of spent GLONASS

14 March 2016

Spacecraft in high orbits, after running out of fuel, become space debris. Under the influence of the gravitational field of the Earth, sun, moon, and other factors, the exhaust unit changes its orbit and begins to move along a new path, creating the risk of collision with operating satellites. Currently no country has an effective mechanism for eliminating spacecraft exhaust. This year, scientists of the Department of Celestial Mechanics and Astrometry NII PMM are beginning to create an algorithm for utilization of nonfunctioning satellites of the GLONASS system. The idea consists in the withdrawal of spent objects into an orbit that will bring them into contact with the upper layers of the atmosphere, where the spacecraft will burn without residue.

The algorithm will be built upon the results of basic research of employees of Department of Celestial Mechanics and Astrometry, who could make a real discovery – to identify patterns of influence of secular resonances in the orbital evolution of the satellites.

- Resonances, including secular resonances, generate orbital evolution, - explains Professor Tatiana Bordovitsyna, head of Department of Celestial Mechanics and Astrometry NII PMM TSU, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. - They are able to transfer celestial objects from nearly circular orbits to elongated ones, directing asteroids from the outer regions of the solar system to the internal, and unmanaged near-Earth objects from nearly circular orbits to high orbit, capable of touching the atmosphere.

New information on the secular resonances will help scientists in cleaning space. Scientists will take into account this factor when calculating the amount of fuel required for the output to end its work in the orbit utilized. According to Tatyana Bordovitsyna, calculations will be made for the GLONASS satellites, but also an algorithm will be created  suitable for the elimination of satellite navigation systems GPS and Galileo.

Note that the problem of cleaning near-Earth space is becoming more and more acute with each passing year. According to NASA data, there are about 22,000 objects of artificial origin with a size of 10 cm or more in high orbits. 15,855 objects were catalogued, with only 6% of them operating. All the rest are space debris: 24% non-functioning satellites, 17% upper stage rocket carriers, and others. Every year in near space  hundreds of new fragments appear. Therefore, in the foreseeable future the clutter of circumterrestrial space may reach such an extent that there will be nowhere to launch new satellites.