Numerica Tackles Growing Space Debris, Satellite Protection Problem

Numerica is working on five contracts for the Air Force, worth more than $3.3 million, to provide state-of-the-art algorithms for improved space situational awareness (SSA). SSA involves the detection, cataloging and ongoing tracking of all space objects orbiting the Earth, and the prediction of events, threats and activities in space. In the late 1950s, there were only a few satellites orbiting the Earth. In September 2011, the National Research Council reported there is so much government and commercial “space junk” in orbit that the debris could cause spacecraft collisions or destroy valuable communication satellites.

Today, the Air Force maintains a catalog of more than 20,000 detectable space objects orbiting the Earth. It is estimated that improved sensors, future collision events and continuous fragmentation will increase the size of the catalog to 200,000 detectable objects within five to ten years.

Numerica is developing new algorithms for the Air Force that provide advanced estimation and data fusion, multi-sensor space object tracking, efficient propagators and gravity models, uncertainty management and anomaly detection for SSA. These enhanced capabilities are designed to identify and track orbiting objects to protect space assets and maintain situational awareness for existing and future space deployments.

The next-generation SSA system will require ground-breaking astrodynamics and tracking algorithms to safely manage the growing space catalog. “We are fortunate to have such a talented team to address this challenging problem,” said Numerica Founder and Chief Scientist Aubrey B. Poore, Ph.D. “Our scientists are honored to support the Air Force’s remarkable efforts to advance space situational awareness.”

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