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MOCAT To Tackle Debris In Space

In a move to address the escalating congestion in low Earth orbit and the growing concern over space debris, MIT’s Astrodynamics, Space Robotics, and Controls Laboratory (ARCLab) have publicly released the MIT Orbital Capacity Assessment Tool (MOCAT).

Unveiled during the 2023 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Space Forum Workshop on December 14, MOCAT offers users the ability to model the long-term future space environment, providing crucial insights into the potential growth of space debris and the effectiveness of debris-prevention mechanisms.

As satellite deployments surge, the risk of collisions and the proliferation of space debris becomes a critical issue. MOCAT, with its unique capabilities, aims to revolutionize the study of the space environment.

Unlike other orbital modeling tools, MOCAT allows users to model individual objects, diverse parameters, orbital characteristics, fragmentation scenarios, and collision probabilities. This versatility positions MOCAT as a powerful tool for comprehensive space environment analysis and management.

The tool’s release comes at a crucial time, offering stakeholders, including satellite operators, regulators, and the general public, the opportunity to make data-driven decisions in the face of a crowded and evolving space landscape.

The ARCLab team, having developed these models over several years, recognizes the need for an open-source implementation of evolutionary modeling tools to enhance consensus-building and decision-making for sustainable space use.

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Richard Linares, the principal investigator for MOCAT and an MIT associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics, expresses optimism about the tool’s potential impact: “MOCAT represents a significant leap forward in orbital capacity assessment.

By making it open-source and publicly available, we hope to engage the global community in advancing our understanding of satellite orbits and contributing to the sustainable use of space.”

The components of MOCAT

MOCAT comprises two main components. MOCAT-MC evaluates space environment evolution through individual trajectory simulation and Monte Carlo parameter analysis, providing both an overall view and a detailed analysis of individual space objects’ evolution.

On the other hand, MOCAT Source Sink Evolutionary Model (MOCAT-SSEM) takes a lower-fidelity modeling approach, enabling quick runs on personal computers within seconds to minutes. Both components can be accessed separately via GitHub.

The open-source nature of MOCAT allows users to experiment with the tool and provide feedback to guide further development. Its initial development received support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA’s Office of Technology and Strategy.

Charity Weeden, associate administrator for the Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy at NASA headquarters, expresses enthusiasm for the tool’s potential contributions: “This open-source modeling tool is a public good that will advance space sustainability, improve evidence-based policy analysis, and help all users of space make better decisions.”

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Source: IE

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