Recommendation 9: Space system developers should adopt design requirements ensuring that spacecraft or rocket bodies do not explode after their functional lifetimes. Ensuring that all potential sources of stored energy on a spacecraft or rocket body are depleted at the end of their functional lifetime is the primary means of accomplishing this goal. Explosions of spacecraft and rocket bodies have been major contributors to the debris hazard, so preventing such explosions will significantly reduce the growth in the short-term debris hazard. Implementing design features to passivate spacecraft and rocket bodies after their functional lifetimes will generally not be very costly.

Recommendation 10: The release of mission-related objects during spacecraft deployment and operations should be avoided whenever possible. Release of mission-related objects in long-lifetime orbits should be particularly avoided. Mission-related debris is a significant fraction of the population of large debris in orbit. Reducing the release of mission-related debris during spacecraft deployment and operations can typically be accomplished without significant expenditure and, in general, without new technology, although some hardware development may be required.

Recommendation 11: Developers should incorporate requirements that spacecraft and rocket bodies be designed to minimize the unintentional release of surface materials, including paint and other thermal control materials, both during and after their functional lifetimes. To aid in meeting these requirements, surface materials that minimize the release of small particles should be developed and used. The deterioration of spacecraft surfaces (paint, etc.) is believed to be a major contributor to the population of small debris, so ending its release would prove beneficial to the space environment.

Recommendation 12: Intentional breakups in orbit (especially those expected to produce a large amount of debris) should be avoided if at all possible. No intentional breakups expected to produce numerous debris with orbital lifetimes longer than a few years should be conducted in Earth orbit. Occasionally, an organization may want to explode a space object in orbit for defense, scientific, or calibration purposes. If it is absolutely necessary that the breakup take place in Earth orbit, it should be at a low altitude to limit the maximum orbital lifetime of fragments.

All of these actions will help to reduce the short-term debris hazard, but (as described in Chapter 8), models of the future debris population show that EOL reorbiting of large objects (generally rocket bodies and spacecraft) in LEO or in orbits that pass through LEO may be necessary to reduce collisional growth in the LEO debris population. However, removing these objects from orbit (particularly from the higher orbits) can be costly. Ensuring that spacecraft and rocket bodies passing



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement