Optical observations of the orbital debris environment at NASA

T. J. Hebert, J. L. Africano, E. G. Stansbery, M. J. Matney, D. T. Hall, J. F. Pawlowski, T. Hanada, P. D. Anz-Meador, K. S. Jarvis, N. Hartsough, M. K. Mulrooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


To monitor the orbital debris environment and facilitate orbital debris modeling and forecasting, the Orbital Debris Program Office of the NASA Johnson Space Center operates two principal telescopes: The liquid mirror telescope (LMT) and the charge coupled device debris telescope (CDT). Both telescopes are maintained at the NASA Cloudcroft Observatory, a 15-meter dome at 2761-meter elevation near Cloudcroft, NM. The LMT became operational in October 1996. Approximately 580 hours of digital video data from the LMT have been collected and processed by an automated hardware/software system. Results from 504 hours are presented. This paper also presents the results of a study of the detection sensitivity of the LMT system as well as a new measurement-based model for estimating object size from LMT measurements. The CDT, the other principal component of the optical program, became operational in November 1997. The CDT is currently being used in a statistical survey of catalogued and uncatalogued debris in geosynchronous earth orbit. Approximately 180 nights worth of data have been collected and results from a portion of this data are presented. A new direction for the CDT is to investigate various regions in GEO that would contain debris from hypothesized break-ups. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd on behalf of COSPAR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1283-1290
Number of pages8
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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