In this paper, we investigate the ability of the Arecibo Observatory to characterize the orbital debris environment and compare it to the primary instrument used by NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office, the Haystack Ultra-Wideband Satellite Imaging Radar (HUSIR). Arecibo's location (183 N) increases the percentage of observable orbits (relative to HUSIR) by 27%, which gives Arecibo access to a much larger and previously unmeasured portion of the environment. Due to the recent collapse of the Arecibo dish, in addition to exploring historic capabilities of the Legacy Arecibo Telescope, estimates of the performance of the proposed Next Generation Arecibo Telescope (NGAT) are explored. We show that the current NGAT design could have a sensitivity comparable to the Goldstone Orbital Debris Radar, currently NASA's most sensitive orbital debris radar. Additionally, design suggestions are presented that would significantly improve the capabilities of the NGAT for orbital debris investigations. We show that, with appropriate hardware upgrades, it would be possible to achieve a minimum-detectable debris size as small as 1 mm. These capabilities would allow data from Arecibo to significantly improve short-term debris environment models, which are used to inform spacecraft design and operations, particularly for orbital debris smaller than 3 mm, which pose the highest penetration risk to most spacecraft.
James Murray and Fredrick Jenet 2022 Planet. Sci. J. 3 52. https://doi.org/10.3847/PSJ/ac4d96
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