Long-term attitude dynamics of space debris in Sun-synchronous orbits: Cassini cycles and chaotic stabilization

S. Efimov, D. Pritykin, V. Sidorenko

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    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Comprehensive analysis of space debris rotational dynamics is vital for active debris removal missions that require physical capture or detumbling of a target. We study the attitude motion of large space debris objects that admittedly pose an immediate danger to space operations in low Earth orbits. Particularly, we focus on Sun-synchronous orbits (SSO) with altitude range 600–800 km, where the density of space debris is maximal. Our mathematical model takes into account the gravity-gradient torque and the torque due to eddy currents induced by the interaction of conductive materials with the geomagnetic field. Using perturbation techniques and numerical methods, we examine the deceleration of the initial fast rotation and the subsequent transition to a relative equilibrium with respect to the local vertical. A better understanding of the latter phase is achieved owing to a more accurate model of the eddy-current torque than in most prior research. We show that SSO precession is also a crucial factor influencing the motion properties. One of its effects is manifested at the deceleration stage as oscillations of the angular momentum vector about the direction to the south celestial pole.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number62
    JournalCelestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


    • Attitude dynamics
    • Cassini cycles
    • Eddy-current torque
    • Space debris


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