Using the moon to inspect space debris

The Firecat Moon mission involves placing a remote passive sensor (i.e. robotic telescope) on the moon at a location that has visibility of the LEO, MEO, and GEO terrestrial debris. Sunlight bouncing off the surface of the debris will provide optical signal for the sensor. Our goal is to detect, track, and characterize debris objects based on this information. Our proof of concept study simulated the amount of light reaching the telescope, and found that there is a lot of radiation present. Here is the analysis:

One noise source for the Firecat Moon Mission is the Earth limb radiating in the background. It seems reasonable that from the moon, the Earth only subtends a pretty small angle, so would rarely be a background clutter source. Earth shine scattered off of your optics if looking too close to earth limb might be a bit of a problem, but more a noise source than anything else. So I think Firecat has just a standard GEO debris tracking problem, except that the range from the moon is probably a bit farther than what most missions require. The photon signal level will determine the detector’s integration time.


There is roughly a 15 percent increase in signal level for the GEO debris as compared to the LEO debris.

Professor Madhu Thangevelu from USC has numerous alternatives to complement this particular moon mission. Catch some of his advanced concepts online here!




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