today are NASA's EVOLVE (Reynolds, 1993) and the University of Braunschweig's CHAIn (Rex and Eichler, 1993). These models take estimates of the current space object population, and new debris from various sources (e.g., collisions, explosions, mission-related debris), and propagate the orbits of these objects over time to create a static description of the debris population at a selected time in the future. (The predictions these models make about the future debris environment are discussed at length in Chapter 8.)
Each of the component models that goes into such models as EVOLVE and CHAIN has its own characteristics and uncertainties. A traffic model keeps track of spacecraft, rocket bodies, and any associated debris launched into orbit by recording when these objects are placed in orbit, their sizes and masses, and their initial orbital elements. Some of these objects will break up into smaller fragments or degrade and release smaller debris. A breakup model describes the number of fragments generated in a breakup, as well as the changes in velocity that place them into slightly different orbits. An orbit propagation model then determines how the orbits of both intact space objects and space object fragments change as a function of time.
The growth and evolution of the Earth-orbiting space object population will be influenced in large measure by the frequency and character of future space operations. Space traffic models, coupled with propagation and breakup models, predict the magnitude and nature of these operations and their effect on the LEO and HEO space object populations. Traffic models must account for (1) all objects (e.g., spacecraft, rocket bodies, mission-related debris) to be placed into Earth orbit; (2) the apogee, perigee, and inclination of each object's orbit; (3) the size and mass of each object, (4) any planned reorbiting or deorbiting maneuvers at the end of an object's functional lifetime; and (5) any stored energy left in the rocket body or spacecraft that may cause it to explode.
Ideally, space traffic models should look far enough into the future to assess the impact of actions to curb the growth of the total space object population. Predicting even the overall level of space activities over such a time frame, however, is often futile, since very few national or commercial space programs have credible long-range plans extending for more than 8 to 10 years, and even these plans are affected by programmatic, technical, and economic trends; changing national and market requirements; and advances in technology. As a further complication of the problem, it is important to know the population in each orbital region, so that low traffic estimates in one altitude region of the model do not offset