SSA Degradation From Large Constellations: A Starlink-Based Case Study


North, P., P. Zimmer, T.S. Kelso, D.L. Oltrogge, T. Johnson, R. Hall, and J. Cooper, "SSA Degradation From Large Constellations: A Starlink-Based Case Study," presented at 2nd IAA Conference on SSA, Washington, DC, 2020 Jan 15.


We explore the potential impacts to, and degradations of, Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and related operations that may be caused by New Space large constellations. In this paper, the initial Starlink constellation layer (anticipated completion in 2025) is adopted as a sample case study to explore these potential SSA impacts and degradations. Results indicate that for normal SSA observations and tracking purposes, SSA degradations may be minimal at least for systems with relatively short integration times. Impacts may be further mitigated if accurate large constellation positional information incorporating planned maneuvers are utilized in the optical tracking operations procedures to effectively mask out the large constellation spacecraft. However, there are potential operational risks to imaging by optical systems with very wide fields of view, lower spatial resolution, long integration times (especially systems with large apertures), and when imaging very faint objects. SSA system throughput, efficiency and accuracy may be degraded as well.

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