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The Solid Rocket Motor Slag Population: Results of a Radar-based Regressive Statistical Evaluation

By Matthew F. Horstman and Yu-Lin Xu

Abstract

Solid rocket motor (SRM) slag has been identified as a significant source of man-made orbital debris. The propensity of SRMs to generate particles of 100 m and larger has caused concern regarding their contribution to the debris environment. Radar observation, rather than in-situ gathered evidence, is currently the only measurable source for the NASA/ODPO model of the on-orbit slag population. This simulated model includes the time evolution of the resultant orbital populations using a historical database of SRM launches, propellant masses, and estimated locations and times of tail-off. However, due to the small amount of observational evidence, there can be no direct comparison to check the validity of this model. Rather than using the assumed population developed from purely historical and physical assumptions, a regressional approach was used which utilized the populations observed by the Haystack radar from 1996 to present. The estimated trajectories from the historical model of slag sources, and the corresponding plausible detections by the Haystack radar, were identified. Comparisons with observational data from the ensuing years were made, and the SRM model was altered with respect to size and mass production of slag particles to reflect the historical data obtained. The result is a model SRM population that fits within the bounds of the observed environment

Topics: Spacecraft Propulsion and Power
Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:casi.ntrs.nasa.gov:20080014089
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