FIGURE 2-2 One day along-track drag retardation for a random sample of cataloged objects at 300–600 km. SOURCE: U.S. Naval Space Command Satellite Catalog.

are further away, or have a lower albedo) might be accomplished with either larger-aperture telescopes or telescopes equipped with charge-coupled devices (CCDs). Siting debris-detecting sensors at low latitudes could allow a broad variety of objects, including those in low-inclination orbits, to be detected. Finally, increasing the number of sensors available to detect debris would allow for better tracking of cataloged objects and for more searches for uncataloged objects.

BOX 2-3 Detecting Debris with CCDs

Charge-coupled devices can be used in optical sensors to convert incoming light directly to electric charges; the magnitude of the output signal is proportional to the light intensity. CCDs have not yet outperformed conventional sensors for detection of objects in LEO because the rapid movement of LEO objects requires that the signal be integrated, which in turn requires an assumption of direction of motion, severely limiting the detection rate. CCDs are improving, however, and are already outperforming non-CCD sensors for observation of high-altitude debris (which does not move as rapidly across the field of view). Upgrading the SSN's GEODSS (ground-based electro-optical deep-space sensors) to use CCDs has been considered.

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