Orbital Debris Program Office
The NASA Orbital Debris Program Office has gathered pictures and graphics that are found here in the photo gallery section and throughout the site. These pictures are all considered open to the public and may be freely viewed or downloaded. The pictures and graphics provide a visual insight into the depth of orbital debris research. Click on the small thumb nail image to view it in its full size. To download an image, right click on the desired image and select "Save Picture As.." from the menu option of your browser.
Orbital Debris Graphics
The following graphics are computer generated images of objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked. Approximately 95% of the objects in this illustration are orbital debris, i.e., not functional satellites. The dots represent the current location of each item. The orbital debris dots are scaled according to the image size of the graphic to optimize their visibility and are not scaled to Earth. These images provide a good visualization of where the greatest orbital debris populations exist. Below are the graphics generated from different observation points. To see the debris in motion, check out
LEO stands for low Earth orbit and is the region of space within 2,000 km of the Earth's surface. It is the most concentrated area for orbital debris.
LEO 256 x 256 (26 kb)
LEO 640 x 640 (100 kb)
LEO 1280 x 1280 (257 kb)
The GEO images are images generated from a distant oblique vantage point to provide a good view of the object population in the geosynchronous region (around 35,785 km altitude). Note the larger population of objects over the northern hemisphere is due mostly to Russian objects in high-inclination, high-eccentricity orbits.
GEO 256 x 205 (17 kb)
GEO 640 x 512 (54 kb)
GEO 1280 x 1024 (125kb)
The GEO Polar images are generated from a vantage point above the north pole, showing the concentrations of objects in LEO and in the geosynchronous region.
GEO - Polar 256 x 256 (23 kb)
GEO - Polar 640 x 640 (62 kb)
GEO - Polar 1280 x 1280 (146 kb)
Orbital Debris Radar
Cobra Dane radar located on Shemya Island, AK. This phased array radar can detect and track objects as small as 5 cm and is a contributing sensor to the U.S. satellite catalog. 71 kb, 396 x 362 px
70m Goldstone antenna located near Barstow, CA. When operated as a bi-static radar, Goldstone is capable of detecting 2 mm debris at altitudes below 1,000 km.
183 kb, 953 x 1427 px
Kiernan Reentry Measurement Site (KREMS) located on Kwajalein Atoll. Four radars are visible: ALCOR (ARPA-Lincoln C-band Observables Radar), TRADEX (Target Resolution and Discrimination EXperiment), MMW (MilliMeter Wave), and ALTAIR (ARPA Long-range Tracking and and Instrumentation Radar). 600 kb, 2561 x 1741 px
Eglin FPS-85 radar located near Ft. Walton Beach, FL. This phased array radar is a dedicated sensor to the U.S. satellite catalog.
598 kb, 1876 x 1392 px
Haystack and HAX radars located in Tyngsboro, MA. These radars collect 600 hrs of orbital debris data each per year. They are NASA's primary source of data on centimeter sized orbital debris.
649 kb, 1909 x 1516 px
Orbital Debris Optical Telescopes
3 m Liquid Mirror Telescope (LMT). This unique telescope used a pool of mercury spun in a dish at 10 rpm to form the primary mirror. The main limitation of the telescope was that it could only point vertically. The LMT was used to optically measure the low Earth orbit (LEO) debris environment. The telescope was located in Cloudcroft, NM and was closed in 2001.
245 kb, 1126 x 1346 px
32 cm CCD Debris Telescope (CDT). This transportable telescope has been used to survey the near geosynchronous orbit regime for space debris. The telescope was most recently deployed to Cloudcroft, NM, but was shut down in 2001. 37 kb, 200 x 283 px
Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing (AMOS) site. This optical sensor suite includes the 3.67 m Advance Electro-Optical System (AEOS) telescope, a 1.6 m telescope, two 1.2 m telescopes, and three 1 m Ground Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS) telescope installation. 472 kb, 2561 x 1741 px
A Advance Electro-Optical System (AEOS) located at Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing (AMOS) site on top of Haleakala volcano, Maui, HI. This telescope is used to image satellites and measure spectra and albedo of orbital debris. 801 kb, 953 x 1427 px
The Michigan Orbital Debris Survey Telescope (MODEST). This telescope is located outside of La Serena, Chile at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. The telescope is a 0.61/0.91 m f/3.5 Schmidt of classical design and is used for observations of the geosynchronous orbit regime. Observations are taken in two-week segments surrounding the new moon. 33 kb, 258 x 397 px
Orbital Debris Impacts
Solid rocket motor (SRM) slag. Aluminum oxide slag is a byproduct of SRMs. Orbital SRMs used to boost satellites into higher orbits are potentially a significant source of centimeter sized orbital debris. This piece was recovered from a test firing of a Shuttle solid rocket booster. 447 kb, 1511 x 1182 px
Window pit from orbital debris on STS-007. 167 kb, 897 x 1116 px
Orbital debris damage seen during Hubble Space Telescope repairs. 112 kb, 600 x 459 px
After in space repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope, the returned parts show many orbital debris impacts. 1725 kb, 1535 x 1020 px
An impact that completely penetrated the antenna dish of the Hubble Space Telescope. 104 kb, 1536 x1032 px
Space Shuttle window being inspected for orbital debris impacts. 124 kb, 1524 x 1012 px
STS-092 vertical stabilizer damage from orbital debris. 108 kb, 1024 x 768 px
Paint flakes captured by Mir Environmental Effects Payload (MEEP). 38 kb, 500 x 494 px
Solar Max satellite repair. Several metal louvers and thermal blankets were returned from the Solar Max satellite. Returned surfaces are a source of information on sub-millimeter sized orbital debris. 378 kb, 1899 x 1229 px
Mir Environmental Effects Payload (MEEP) Orbital Debris Collector (ODC) was exposed to the space environment for 18 months. The ODC utilized an aerogel capture medium. Aerogel is a very low density material that can slow small particles down from orbital velocities and capture them without destroying them. 232 kb, 1425 x 1078 px
View of an orbital debris hole made in the panel of the Solar Max experiment. 320 kb, 2835 x 2175 px
Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) was left in low Earth orbit (LEO) for 5.7 years before being retrieved by space shuttle Columbia in January 1990. 46 kb, 369 x 501 px
A close-up view of a panel from the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) spacecraft. 45 kb, 525 x 478 px
Orbital Debris Reentry
This is the main propellant tank of the second stage of a Delta 2 launch vehicle which landed near Georgetown, TX, on 22 January 1997. This approximately 250 kg tank is primarily a stainless steel structure and survived reentry relatively intact. 1067 kb, 2910 x 2361 px
This 30 kg titanium pressurant tank also survived the reentry of the Delta 2 second stage on 22 January 1997 but was found farther downrange near Seguin, TX. 140 kb, 1785 x 1212 px
On 21 January 2001, a Delta 2 third stage, known as a PAM-D (Payload Assist Module - Delta), reentered the atmosphere over the Middle East. The titanium motor casing of the PAM-D, weighing about 70 kg, landed in Saudi Arabia about 240 km from the capital of Riyadh. 150 kb, 1028 x 720 px
Orbital Debris Miscellaneous
Orbital Debris Radar Calibration Spheres (ODERACS) experiment. ODERACS deployed spheres and dipoles from the Shuttle to calibrate the Haystack orbital debris radar measurements. An ODERACS sphere being deployed is visible just over the Shuttle's tailfin. 385 kb, 1584 x 1488 px
Computer generated orbital debris graphics displaying currently tracked debris objects. Several graphics taken from different view points.