It has become a concern in recent years that the low Earth orbits are turning into a congested and contaminated environment with the proliferation of orbital debris. So far, approximately 34,000 objects larger than 10 cm in diameter lie in this region, about 900,000 pieces of debris 1-10 cm, and the number of objects smaller than 1 cm is estimated to be up to 128 million. With the development and commercialisation of small satellites, the small satellite market is expected to reach $15,686.3 million by 2026. Any impact or collision of space debris with the operational satellites can jeopardise or even end their life, yield significant loss to the space economy, and trigger the so-called Kessler Syndrome which refers to the possibility that collisions will create more debris collisions.
The University of Sydney are developing space-based optical sensors, including telescopes, hyperspectral imager and wide field of view star tracker under the ARC training Centre for CubeSats, UAVs and the Applications (CUAVA). These sensors are initially developed for other purposes like Earth observation, astronomy and attitude and orbit determination. This project however will look at the feasibility of applying these sensors for space objects detection and tracking in orbit.
Professor Xiaofeng Wu, The University of Sydney