Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Richard G. Cobb, PhD


Published reports of microsatellite weapons testing have led to a concern that some of these "parasitic" satellites could be deployed against US satellites to rendezvous dock and then disrupt, degrade disable or destroy the system. An effective detection method is essential. Various sensing solutions were investigated including visual, impact, and dynamic techniques. Dynamic detection, the most effective solution, was further explored. A detection algorithm was constructed and validated on the Air Force Institute of Technology's ground-based satellite simulator, SIMSAT. Results indicate that microsat microsatellites rigidly connected to a satellite can be detected with a series of small identical maneuvers utilizing data available today. All algorithm variations readily detected parasite-induced moment of inertia changes of 3-23%. The most accurate detection scheme. The most accurate detection scheme estimated the moment of inertia to 0.67%. The results look promising for sensing potential microsatellite threats to US systems. The detection scheme presented could easily be integrated into a complete space situational awareness system.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number