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Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies

CORDS was established in 1997 to focus the corporation’s research and technology applications in the areas of space debris, collision avoidance, and reentry breakup and to provide a single point-of-contact for organizations seeking to take advantage of Aerospace’s more than 50 years of experience in these and related technical areas.

Outer space presents a number of hazards to spacecraft. Temperature extremes, radiation, solar flares, and micrometeoroids have long been essential considerations in spacecraft and mission design.

Collisions between manmade objects

Increasing use of space has brought a new source of risk — collisions between manmade objects. Given the high relative velocities of objects in space, even small untracked objects can damage critical sensors and spacecraft components.

Recent collisions have raised awareness of the growing hazard from space debris and the risk to space operations.

As users of space have recognized the hazards of space debris on operating satellites, plans have been made to deorbit old inoperative spacecraft and hardware back into Earth’s atmosphere, where the heat of reentry will destroy the satellite and its components.

Unfortunately, some portions of the spacecraft — sometimes large components — may survive reentry and pose a hazard to people and property on the ground.

Reentry breakup recorder (REBR)

As part of its ongoing research into orbital debris, CORDS spearheaded development of a tool called the Reentry Breakup Recorder (REBR). This is a small, autonomous device that records temperature, acceleration, rotational rate, and other data during the reentry of space hardware into the Earth’s atmosphere and its subsequent breakup due to aerodynamic heating and loads. Click here to read about the REBR and Aerospace’s role in developing this unique instrument.