Finding: Spacecraft anomalies are a direct measurement of both the state of the particulate environment in space and the adequacy of a spacecraft design. However, no formal recording, analyzing, sharing, and reporting procedures exist to take advantage of data on spacecraft anomalies despite that data’s potential as valuable information about particulates in a critical size range that is typically not sampled continuously.
Recommendation: NASA should initiate a new effort to record, analyze, report, and share data on spacecraft anomalies in order to better quantify the risk posed by particulates too small to be cataloged yet large enough to disrupt spacecraft operations. The results of this effort would provide general insights into the effects of meteoroids and orbital debris on operational space systems. Eventually, this effort could provide data to upgrade current MMOD models—the Meteoroid Environment Model, Orbital Debris Environment Model, and BUMPER.