AAE Spring Colloqium Series: Orbital Carrying Capacity and its Implication on Space Sustainability

Event Date: April 23, 2024
Time: 4:30 PM - 5:20 PM
Location: ARMS 1010
Priority: No
School or Program: Aeronautics and Astronautics
College Calendar: Show


The rapid growth of active satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) poses challenges to safe and responsible space operations. MIT Astrodynamics, Space Robotics, and Controls Lab (ARCLab), directed by Prof. Linares, addresses these challenges through two research focus areas: the orbital packing problem and space environment modeling. This talk will focus on these two important issues. Orbital packing employs techniques from number theory to design satellite locations that inherently avoid collisions, improving space efficiency and simplifying operations. Our space environment modeling research aims to understand LEO’s sustainable satellite limit and to inform stakeholder decision-making. MIT ARCLab’s innovative approach employs efficient lower-fidelity models based on first-order differential equations, enabling system-wide optimizations and improved explainability of model outputs. Additionally, a state-of-the-art, high-fidelity Monte Carlo space environment model is utilized. These approaches are included in the MIT Orbital Capacity Assessment Tool (MOCAT), which is an open-source tool aimed at supporting the space sustainability community. These advancements offer a foundation for sustainable, responsible space operations at scale.


Richard Linares joined MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics as an Assistant Professor in July of 2018. Before joining MIT, he was an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota’s Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics Department. He received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in aerospace engineering from University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. He was a Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory and also held a postdoctoral associate appointment at the United States Naval Observatory. His research areas are astrodynamics, estimation and controls, satellite guidance and navigation, space situational awareness, and space traffic management. Richard Linares is a recipient of the AFOSR Young Investigator Research Program Award in 2018 and the 2020 DARPA Young Faculty Award.