Fragments

From: Dinogeorge@aol.com
Date: Fri Nov 04 2005 - 03:52:25 EST

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    Has the issue of what to call various kinds of  orbiting debris been 
    addressed here? (Just curious.) When my own table of earth  satellites was in full 
    swing, I was pretty careful to use the term "metal  object" for a piece of 
    nondescript hardware jettisoned during the normal launch  and operation of a 
    spacecraft, and reserved the term "fragment" specifically for  an orbited object that 
    resulted from the breakup, whether intentional or  unintentional, of a 
    spacecraft or rocket body. (Something knocked off a  spacecraft by a collision would 
    be a "fragment," too.) Of course, I tried to  identify each object as best I 
    could (as a "metal strap" or "despin weight" or  "auxiliary rocket motor" or 
    "fairing" or "garbage bag" or whatever), and used  "metal object"--an old NASA 
    term from early Goddard reports, as I recall--only  if the nature of the 
    object remained obscure. In the RAE table, I see the term  "fragment" used for all 
    kinds of debris that are not the result of on-orbit  breakup, sometimes even 
    for true satellites (e.g., the multitudinous Russian  Romb radar calibration 
    subsatellites).
    
    The term "debris" in this context,  of course, denotes anything in orbit 
    that's not an active satellite (this  definition appears in an early issue of the 
    Orbital Debris Quarterly News). So  spent rocket bodies, satellites that are 
    no longer operating, breakup fragments,  metal objects, despin weights, dipole 
    clumps, canister parts, and so forth are  all "debris," and calling something 
    "debris" is even less informative than  calling it "fragment."
    
    Any thoughts on this, or should broad terms such  as "metal object," 
    "fragment," and "debris" simply be used interchangeably?  
    
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