Deimos Sky Survey Spots Dèbris Resulting from the Fragmentation of an Atlas V Rocket Body

On March 26th 2019 at the occasion of the IAF Spring meeting Space Dèbris Committee, Vladimir Agapov of Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics unveiled the fragmentation event of object 2009-047B, estimated to have taken place on March 25th. 2009-047B object is the second stage of the Atlas V launcher which put in orbit a US satellite on 8th September 2009. The rocket body was placed on a GEO Transfer Orbit of 6673 x 34700 km, 23.1º, where it could stay for centuries.

Following the announcement, Deimos Sky Survey observatory has tracked the object in the nights of 26th, 27th and 28th of March, providing detailed images of the central body and between 40 and 60 fragments larger than 30 cm size. Animations (typically covering 30 secs of real data) below based on acquisitions on these days show the objects as fixed points, while stars are shown as trails, since the sensor is moving following the objects’ movement.

Deimos Sky Survey tracked the fragmentation and debris formation of the ATLAS V Rocket. The analyses show the expected evolution of the fragments cloud around the Earth and the Spatial density at different altitudes and timeframes.

On the fixed image of March 27th, individual objects are detected for tagging and identification.

Based on the acquired images and simulated data from breakup models, Elecnor Deimos SSA team is making use of the in-house processing, and fragmentation evaluation tools, to carry out analysis and perform simulations so as to characterize the resulting objects and predict is orbital evolution. Results of these analyses, such as the expected evolution of the fragments cloud around the Earth  or the Spatial density at different altitudes and timeframe, shown below, are being shared with the Space Surveillance and Tracking international community.

Evolution of fragment location



Predicted spatial density at different altitudes and timeframe


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