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Orbital Debris Program Office

Orbital Debris Mitigation

Controlling the growth of the orbital debris population is a high priority for NASA, the United States, and the major space-faring nations of the world to preserve near-Earth space for future generations. Mitigation measures can take the form of curtailing or preventing the creation of new debris, designing satellites to withstand impacts by small debris, and implementing operational procedures such as using orbital regimes with less debris, adopting specific spacecraft attitudes, and even maneuvering to avoid collisions with debris.

In 1995 NASA was the first space agency in the world to issue a comprehensive set of orbital debris mitigation guidelines. Two years later, the U.S. Government developed a set of Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices based on the NASA guidelines. Other countries and organizations, including Japan, France, Russia, and the European Space Agency (ESA), have followed suit with their own orbital debris mitigation guidelines. In 2002, after a multi-year effort, the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), comprised of the space agencies of 10 countries as well as ESA, adopted a consensus set of guidelines designed to mitigate the growth of the orbital debris population. In February 2007, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) of the United Nations' Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) completed a multi-year work plan with the adoption of a consensus set of space debris mitigation guidelines very similar to the IADC guidelines. The guidelines were accepted by the COPUOS in June 2007 and endorsed by the United Nations in January 2008.

Spacecraft Debris
Artist Conception of a Satellite Breakup

Additional Information

NASA Procedural Requirements for Limiting Orbital Debris - NPR 8715_006B (Adobe PDF 189 kb)
These NASA requirements became effective in August 2007 and reflect NASA's policy to limit future orbital debris generation. The applicability, authority, and references of the requirements and the responsibility within NASA organizations are all clearly stated in the document.

NASA Technical Standard 8719.14 (Adobe PDF 445 kb)
NASA has adopted a policy to control the generation of orbital debris in NASA Procedural Requirements 8715.6A and has implemented this policy in NASA Technical Standard 8719.14. All NASA flight projects are now required to provide debris assessments and end-of-mission planning as a normal part of the project development.

Debris Assessment Software & User's Guide
The Debris Assessment Software (DAS) has been developed to assist NASA programs in performing orbital debris assessments as described in NASA Technical Standard 8719.14, Process for Limiting Orbital Debris. The software follows the structure of the standard and provides the user with tools to ensure compliance with the requirements or to assess debris mitigation options to bring a program within requirements.

U.S. Government Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices (Adobe PDF 117kb)
A U.S. interagency working group led by NASA and DoD developed a work plan to study the debris environment and to work with U.S. government agencies and other space faring nations and international organizations to design and adopt guidelines to minimize orbital debris. In 1997, the working group created a set of U.S. Government Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices. Based on a NASA standard of procedures for limiting debris, the Standard Practices are intended for government-operated or -procured space systems, including satellites as well as launch vehicles. The Standard Practices were approved by all US Government agencies by February 2001. The interagency group has shared the guidelines with the aerospace industry to encourage voluntary compliance.