Assessing and minimizing collisions in satellite mega-constellations

Nathan Reiland, Aaron J. Rosengren, Renu Malhotra, Claudio Bombardelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We aim to provide satellite operators and researchers with an efficient means for evaluating and mitigating collision risk during the design process of mega-constellations. We first introduce a novel algorithm for conjunction prediction that relies on large-scale numerical simulations and uses a sequence of filters to greatly reduce its computational expense. We then use this brute-force algorithm to establish baselines of endogenous (intra-constellation), or self-induced, conjunction events for the FCC-reported designs of the OneWeb LEO and SpaceX Starlink mega-constellations. We demonstrate how these deterministic results can be used to validate more computationally efficient, stochastic techniques for close-encounter prediction by adopting a new probabilistic approach from Solar-System dynamics as a simple test case. Finally, we show how our methodology can be applied during the design phase of large constellations by investigating Minimum Space Occupancy (MiSO) orbits, a generalization of classical frozen orbits that holistically account for the perturbed-Keplerian dynamics of the Earth-satellite-Moon-Sun system. The results indicate that the adoption of MiSO orbital configurations of the proposed mega-constellations can significantly reduce the risk of endogenous collisions with nearly indistinguishable adjustments to the nominal orbital elements of the constellation satellites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3755-3774
Number of pages20
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021


  • Dynamical evolution and stability
  • Frozen orbits
  • Mega-constellations
  • Satellite conjunction
  • Space debris

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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