Conference paper Open Access
Recent spacecraft collisions with debris and various near misses have highlighted the need for pursuing Active Debris Removal (ADR) of space debris. Robotic manipulators provide a versatile way to capture, detumble, and eventually deorbit the debris. This paper explores the classification of space debris and robotic manipulators based on angular momentum. Previous classifications have considered the tumble rates, size, and orbit of the debris. However, a momentum-based classification gives an additional insight into the method selection for debris removal as shown in this paper. A study on the momentum capture capabilities of previously flown robotic manipulators is performed. This gives an impression of the capabilities of the flight-heritage robotic manipulators for their use in ADR missions. Furthermore, an analysis is also performed on the momentum of cylindrical space debris as it closely represents the spent rocket upper stages which could be prime targets for a robotic ADR mission. The change in momentum due to the tumble rate and inertia is analysed for such cylindrical debris and they are then categorized based on their momentum. These analyses provide the data required to perform a matching of the momentum of the debris with the momentum capabilities of the existing robotic manipulators and thus classify the debris based on momentum. The classification is then applied to real debris objects and the results are discussed. The comparison of the momentum of debris and manipulators is also used to provide input for future manipulator development for ADR missions.