Close Approaches of Debris to LARES Satellite During Its First Four Years of Operation

Claudio Paris, Giampiero Sindoni, Tommaso di Sabato


Since its launch in February 2012, the LAser RElativity Satellite (LARES) of the Italian Space Agency experienced four close approaches with space debris. LARES orbits at an altitude of 1450 km, in a region where the density of space debris has a peak. However, the probability of an impact with a debris during the operational life of the satellite was reasonably low. The analysis of the close approaches identified three of the objects, that are from two peculiar population of objects. This paper discusses the problem of space debris in low orbit, the approaches occurred with LARES, and some possible scenarios related to space regulations and space law in case of an impact.


General relativity; LARES; satellite laser ranging; space debris; space law

Full Text:



A. Paolozzi, I. Ciufolini, A. Gabrielli, C. Paris, G. Sindoni, LARES Mission:Engineering Aspects, XXII AIDAA Conference, Napoli, 9-12 September 2013.

G. Sindoni, I. Ciufolini, F. Battie, A Monte Carlo analysis for collision risk assessment on VEGA launcher payloads and LARES satellite, Artificial Satellites, Vol. 51, No. 1, 4554, 2016.

G. Sindoni, E. C. Pavlis , I. Ciufolini, Orbital Data Analysis on LARES Satellite, AIDAA Congress, Turin, Nov 2015.

I. Ciufolini and J.A. Wheeler, Gravitation and Inertia, Princeton Univ. Press, 1995.

I. Ciufolini, E.C. Pavlis, J.C. Ries, R. Koenig, G. Sindoni, A. Paolozzi and H. Neumayer, Phenomenology of the Lense-Thirring effect in the Solar System: Measurement of frame-dragging with laser ranged satellites, New Astronomy, 17, 341, 2012.

B. P. Abbot, et al. (LIGO Scientific Collaboration and Virgo Collaboration),Observation of gravitational waves from a binary black hole merger, Physical Review Letters 116 (2016) 061102.

I. Ciufolini, A comprehensive introduction to the Lageos gravitomagnetic experiment: from the importance of the gravitomagnetic field in physics to preliminary error analysis and error budget. Int. J. Mod. Phys. A, 4, pp. 3083-3145, 1989.

B.D. Tapley, J.C. Ries, M.M. Watkins, R.J. Eanes, Simulation of an experiment to measure the Lense-Thirring precession using a second LAGEOS satellite, Appendix A of the NASA/University of Texas LAGEOS-3 Feasibility Study, B.D. Tapley and I. Ciufolini, Eds., September 1989.

I. Ciufolini, A. Paolozzi, LARES: A New Laser-ranged Satellite for Fundamental Physics and General Relativity, Actual Problems of Aviation and Aerospace Systems, 1, pp. 61-73, 1999.

DM Lucchesi, A. Paolozzi, A cost effective approach for LARES satellite, XVI AIDAA Conference, 2001.

I. Ciufolini and E.C. Pavlis, A confirmation of the general relativistic prediction of the Lense-Thirring effect, Nature, 431, pp. 958-960, 2004. doi:10.1038/nature03007

I. Ciufolini, B. Moreno Monge, A. Paolozzi, R. Koenig, G. Sindoni, G. Michalak, E.C. Pavlis, 2013. Monte Carlo simulations of the LARES space experiment to test General Relativity and fundamental physics. Classical and Quantum Gravity, 30, 235009.

I. Ciufolini, A. Paolozzi, C. Paris, Overview of the LARES Mission: orbit, error analysis and technological aspects. Journal of Physics, Conference Series, 354, p. 1-9, 2012.

A. Paolozzi, I. Ciufolini, LARES successfully launched in orbit: satellite and mission description. Acta Astronautica, 91, pp. 313-321, 2013. DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2013.05.011

A. Paolozzi, I. Ciufolini, C. Paris, G. Sindoni, LARES a new satellite specifically designed for testing general relativity. International Journal of Aerospace Engineering, 2015, p. 1-10, 2015.

A. Paolozzi, I. Ciufolini, C. Vendittozzi, F. Felli, Material and surface properties of lares satellite (conference paper). Proceedings of the 63rd International Astronautical Congress - IAC, pp. 6559-6565, 1-5 Oct 2012, Naples Italy.

A. Paolozzi, I. Ciufolini, F. Felli, A. Brotzu, D. Pilone, Issues on LARES satellite material. 60th International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2009, pp 5585–5591, Daejeon, Korea; 12-16 October 2009.

A. Bosco, C. Cantone, S. Dell’Agnello, G.O. Delle Monache, M. Franceschi, M. Garattini, T. Napolitano et al., Probing gravity in NEO with high-accuracy laser-ranged test masses. International Journal of Modern Physics D, 16, p. 2271-2285, 2007.

M.R. Pearlman, J.J.Degnan, J.M.Bosworth, The international laser ranging service, Adv.Space Res. 30, pp. 135-143, 2002.

I. Ciufolini, D.G. Currie, A. Paolozzi, The LARES Mission for Testing the Dynamics of General Relativity, In: Proceedings of IEEE Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, Montana, USA, 5-12 March 2003, Vol. 2, p. 693-703.

A. Paolozzi, I. Ciufolini, C. Paris, G. Sindoni, D. Spano. Qualification tests on the optical retro-reflectors of LARES satellite. Proceedings of 63rd International Astronautical Congress - IAC, pp. 6280-6286, Naples, Italy, 1-5 October, 2012.

I. Ciufolini, A. Paolozzi, E.C. Pavlis, R. Koenig, J. Ries, V. Gurzadyan, R. Matzner, R. Penrose, G. Sindoni, C. Paris,Preliminary orbital analysis of the LARES space experiment, Eur Phys J. Plus, 130:133, 2015. DOI: 10.1140/epjp/i2015-15133-2

I. Ciufolini, A. Paolozzi, R. Koenig, E.C. Pavlis, J. Ries, R. Matzner, V. Gurzadyan, R. Penrose, G. Sindoni, C. Paris, Fundamental Physics and General Relativity with the LARES and LAGEOS satellites. Nuclear Physics B-Proceedings Supplements, vol. 243-244, p. 180-193, 2013.

European Space Agency, Protecting space missions. The challenge of space debris, ESA Communications Production, BR-329|ISBN 978-92-9221-095-3|ISSN 0250-1589.

NASA Orbital Debris Program Office, Satellite box score, Orbital Debris Quarterly News, p. 13, Vol. 20, Issues 1&2, April 2016.

D. Mehrholz, L. Leushacke, W. Flury, R. Jehn, H. Klinkrad, M. Landgraf, Detecting, Tracking and Imaging Space Debris, ESA bulletin 109, p. 128, February 2002.

T. Schildknecht, R. Musci, W. Flury, J. de Leon, L. de Fatima Dominguez Palmero, Properties of the high area-to-mass ratio space debris population in GEO. 2005 AMOS Technical Conference, Maui, Hawaii, USA, 5-9 September, 2005.

N. Johnson, First orbital collision of catalogued Earth satellites, Orbital Debris Quarterly News, p. 1, Vol 1, Issue 2, September-December 1996.

N.L. Johnson, Preliminary analysis of the fragmentation of the Spot 1 Ariane third stage, Orbital Debris from Upper Stage Breakup (Progress in Astronautics and Aeronautics Vol. 121 ), J. P. Loftus Jr. Eds., chapter 4, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, September 1989.

J. C. Liou and N. L. Johnson, Physical Properties of the Large Fengyun-1C Breakup Fragments. Orbital Debris Quarterly News, NASA Orbital Debris Program Office, 12 (2): 5-6. April 2008.

NASA Orbital Debris Program Office, Satellite Collision Leaves Significant Debris Clouds, Orbital Debris Quarterly News, pp. 1-2, Vol. 13, Issue 2, April 2009.

T. S. Kelso, Chinese space debris hits Russian satellite, AGI Blog, March 8, 2013. URL:

L. David, Russian Satellite Hit by Debris from Chinese Anti-Satellite Test,, March 8, 2013, URL:

NASA, The Day NASA’s Fermi Dodged a 1.5-ton Bullet, Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope news website, April 30, 2013. URL:

N. Johnson, USA Space Debris Environment, Operations and Policy Updates, 48th Session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, United Nations 7-18 February 2011.

J.C. Liou, USA Space Debris Environment, Operations and Measurement Updates, 52nd Session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, United Nations 2-13 February 2015.

J. Spark, ISS forced to perform debris avoidance maneuver, Space Safety Magazine, January 13, 2012. URL:

D. J. Kessler and B. G. Cour-Palais, Collision Frequency of Artificial Satellites: The Creation of a Debris Belt. Journal of Geophysical Research, 83, pp. 2637-2646, 1978. 10.1029/JA083iA06p02637

Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty), United Nation General Assembly, resolution 2222 (XXI), 1967.

M. J. Listner, Legal issues surrounding space debris remediation. The Space Review, Monday, August 6, 2012.

Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects (Liability Convention), United Nations General Assembly, resolution 2777 (XXVI), annex, 1971.

E. G. Lee and D. W. Sproule, Liability for Damage Caused by Space Debris: The Cosmos 954 Claim, Canadian Yearbook of international Law/Annuaire canadien de droit international, Volume 26, pp. 273-279, January 1989.

G. Karacalioglu, Energy Resources for Space Missions, Space Safety Magazine, January 16, 2014.

IADC Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines, issued by Steering Group and Working Group 4, IADC-02-01, Revision 1 September 2007.

United Nations General Assembly, International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, resolution 62/217, 22 December 2007.

European Code of Conduct for Space Debris Mitigation, Issue 1.0, June 28, 2004.

Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Compendium of space debris mitigation standards adopted by States and international organizations, A/AC.105/C.2/2014/CRP.15, Legal Subcommittee, Fifty-third session, Vienna, 24 March-4 April 2014.

Technical Committee ISO/TC 20, subcommittee SC 14, ISO 24113:2011, Space systems - Space debris mitigation requirements,, (accessed 15.07.2016).

IADC Working Group 4, Support to the IADC Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines, Action Item 26-2, IADC-04-06, Rev 5.5, May 2014.

Inter-agency space debris coordination committee, Stability of the future LEO environment. Report of an IADC study, 50th Session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, United Nations, 11-22 February 2013.,%20Rev%201,%20Stability%20of%20Future%20LEO%20Environment.pdf

A.K. Maini, V. Agrawal, Satellite Technology: Principles and Applications, pp 69-70. John Wiley Sons, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-118-63647-3

Encyclopedia Astronautica, Strela-1M, (accessed 15.07.2016).

H. Klinkrad, Space Debris: Models and Risk Analysis, p. 94. Springer Science Business Media, 2006. DOI: 10.1007/3-540-37674-7

D. O. Whitlock, History of on-orbit satellite fragmentation, 13th edition, pp. 100,118, NASA orbital debris program office, May 2004.

Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Status of International Agreements relating to activities in outer space as at 1 January 2016, A/AC.105/C.2/2016/CRP.3, Legal Subcommittee, Fifty-fifth session, Vienna, 4-15 April 2016.

G. Sindoni, T. Di Sabato, C. Paris, Space debris close approach to LARES satellite, 2016 IEEE 16th International Conference on Environment and Electrical Engineering (EEEIC), Firenze, Italy, 7-10 June 2016.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017 Claudio Paris, Giampiero Sindoni, Tommaso di Sabato

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.