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unanticipated missions in another altitude region. For all of these reasons, space traffic models have historically been poor predictors of future activities. Nevertheless, scenarios of potential levels of future activity can be developed and used to evaluate the influence of future launch activity on population.
Breakup models are used to characterize the fragments generated in space object breakups. The results of these models are typically used to estimate existing debris populations and to predict the future population. Most breakup models use the type and amount of energy causing the breakup of a space object of a given mass to estimate the resulting fragment distribution. The most useful breakup models are semiempirical and incorporate the laws of physics as well as existing data on breakups in their calculations. However, there are two major difficulties involved in developing an accurate breakup model. First, no ''typical" amount of debris is generated in an explosion or collision, since there are many different causes of explosions and many different types of collisions (e.g., two spacecraft colliding head-on will produce more debris than a collision between a 10-cm fragment and a spacecraft's solar array). Second, and perhaps more problematically, there are very few data on which to base breakup models.
Few experiments have been conducted to improve breakup models; most available data have been obtained as a byproduct of experiments with other objectives. Explosion data have been gathered from such sources as an accidental Atlas missile explosion, munition explosion tests (Bess, 1975), and explosions in orbit, although recently, some groundbased explosion tests have been conducted specifically to determine the velocity and mass distributions of explosion fragments (Fucke, 1993). Data on collisions are also limited; for many years, the primary sources of such data were the pioneering work of Bess at the NASA Langley Research Center in 1975 and several series of tests performed for the U.S. military during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Debris from the military tests were examined for NASA in the 1980s explicitly to refine the foundation of satellite impact breakup models. The deliberate on-orbit collisions of P-78 and D-180 in the mid 1980s added to this database, though no significant data are available on the smaller (untrackable) fragments produced in these tests.
Recently, however, more complete data on the fragments created in a collision-induced breakup were acquired from tests specifically designed to improve breakup models. In these tests, the U.S. Defense Nuclear Agency shot a 150-gram projectile at 6 km/s into parts of an actual space