Date of Award
Master of Science
Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Robert Bettinger, PhD
This research involves theoretical analysis of the short- and long-term motion of space debris in cislunar trajectories following a spacecraft catastrophic mishap. Specifically, the research formulates a debris propagation model using four-body dynamics and determines debris trajectories following breakup events for a variety of different initial orbital positions. A spacecraft survivability model is then used to quantify the risks from the debris to other cislunar spacecraft. First, a study of the risks due to natural debris comprising the Kordylewski clouds at the Earth-Moon 𝐿4 and 𝐿5 Lagrange points is conducted as an introduction to cislunar debris propagation. Next, five artificial cislunar debris case studies are examined, which include the study of catastrophic spacecraft mishaps at the collinear Earth-Moon Lagrange points 𝐿1 and 𝐿2, during an Apollo-like Earth-Moon transfer, during a transfer between 𝐿1 and Earth along the 𝐿1 manifold, at the stable Lagrange points 𝐿4 and 𝐿5, and in lunar orbit. Risks to current operational spacecraft near Earth were found to be greatest for the Apollo-like transfer case study, and slight risks to spacecraft in cislunar orbits were found for the other case studies. The 𝐿4 and 𝐿5 points were found to be vulnerable to debris accumulation in the studies of mishaps at 𝐿4 and 𝐿5, and debris that circulates cislunar space indefinitely is the primary risk resulting from mishaps at 𝐿1, 𝐿2, and in the 𝐿1 manifold. Overall, research into cislunar debris propagation enhances operational planning outside the traditional near-Earth paradigm of spacecraft mission operations and increases understanding of the debris-related consequences of mishaps within this orbital regime.
DTIC Accession Number
Boone, Nathan R., "Cislunar Debris Propagation Following a Catastrophic Spacecraft Mishap" (2021). Theses and Dissertations. 4971.