Estimating the Risk of Satellite Collisions in Densely Populated Orbit Shells

William Lee, Paul Martin, Ann Smith, Giancarlo Antonucci, Georgia Brennan, Yoana Grudeva, Alfred Kume, Nur Anisah Mohamed, Colin Please, Joe Roberts, Tamsin Spelman

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper


Low Earth Orbit is becoming crowded with satellites. Updating estimates of collision probabilities is important as new deployments are authorised but is difficult because only limited information is given. This report investigates developing analytic estimates of collision probabilities. A survey of approaches reported in the literature is carried out. A collision involving a satellite from the Iridium cluster is reviewed. A simple analytic expression for the collision probability between two satellites is derived using the smallness of several dimensionless ratios appearing in the problem. Single collision probabilities are then extended to orbital planes populated by n satellites with the aim of finding the optimal point at which to traverse such an orbit. This report demonstrates that analytic estimates relevant to the problem can be made. Further work should focus on: making these estimates rigorous by using a formal asymptotic approach, considering multiple orbital planes and introducing time dependence.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2021

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