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The SST Operational Centre in Romania is testing its support capacity for On-Orbit Servicing and Active Debris Removal

on 07 April 2021

On 30 March 2021, the Berthelot T04 telescope of the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy carried out an observation campaign of two space objects in geosynchronous orbits, approaching at less than 20 km.

The telescope is part of the national network of sensors which deliver data to the SST Operational Centre in Romania (COSST), coordinated by the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA).

Space debris monitoring and Active Debris Removal (ADR) represent new and current priorities for organisations around the world, which involve the launch of satellite platforms, dedicated to collecting non-functional space infrastructure elements. This technique relies on tracking target objects located thousands of kilometers away using space- or ground-based sensors that provide operational data to the entities that are involved in the process of coupling the capture structure with space junk.

The same technique of long distance monitoring of space objects that are about to make contact is also necessary for another growing service —  On-Orbit Servicing — that aims to increase the lifespan of satellites or to repair certain defects by providing resources and assistance, with the help of satellite systems dedicated to on-orbit service.

In Romania, efforts are being made in order to participate in the development and provision of services for maintaining and increasing the resilience of space infrastructure, by developing sensors of various categories and integrating them into a network dedicated to Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST).

In this context, on 30 March 2021, starting at 18:27 [UTC], one of the telescopes belonging to the Romanian STT network (Berthelot T04) observed two objects placed on geosynchronous orbits, at about 35800 km altitude. The estimated minimum observable distance between the two objects, according to the images below, was about 20 km. The incoming images were automatically handled by the processing component of COSST, detecting the two objects and determining their successive positions. 

2021 04 SST Deseuri Spatiale

Successive automatic detections of close space objects - Credit: SST RO Consortium

The T04 telescope is located in the General Berthelot commune, Hunedoara county and belongs to the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy (IAAR). The telescope is part of a sensor network that delivers data to the Romanian SST Operational Centre (COSST), coordinated by the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA).

 This example confirms the observing, processing and coordination capabilities of the Romanian Operational Centre (COSST) in a highly important field in order to ensure the safety and sustainability of space activities. In addition to activities at national level, Romania, together with six other European countries, is participating in a consortium offering services that ensure the sustainability of European critical satellite infrastructures through SST capabilities.

Update 15 April 2021

The Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy continued the observation campaign of two space objects in geosynchronous orbits located at about 35800 km altitude. The images received were processed by extracting the astrometry information and determining the distance between the two space objects. During the observation campaign, the two objects came as close as to enable potential contact, estimated to have taken place on 12 Aprile 2021. An approximate graphic representation of the approach between the two objects can be seen in the image below.

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