Our Research Group, in collaboration with Politecnico de Milano and the spanish company GMV, have come up with an algorithm to identify and characterize satellite manoeuvres, a big step forward in the fight against the space debris problem.
The number of hazardous objects in Earth orbit (those bigger than 1 cm) currently adds up to 100,000, out of which only 30 percent can be monitored with the current surveillance technologies. Still, such a high number demands automated algorithms to classify (or correlate) observations, and this mostly relies on our good knowledge of celestial mechanics. But what if the things we observe in space do not follow such fundamental natural motion? In fact this is rather common as operating satellites need to manoeuvre to fulfill their mission: let it be monitoring polar ice, forecasting the weather or even avoiding to crash against some space junk.
Solving the manoeuvre detection problem thus allows for a fully automated data management, removing the human in the loop and identifying conflicting situations that might have been overseen otherwise. On top of that, a better understanding of how objects move leads to an increased knowledge of the orbital population, meaning that risk associated with potential collisions can be minimized.