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Prof Dr Thomas Schildknecht 

Prof Dr Thomas Schildknecht is currently leading the Optical Astronomy Group of the Astronomical Institute of the University of Bern, Switzerland, and is the director of the Swiss Optical Ground Station and Geodynamics Observatory Zimmerwald. His research combines an interest in astrodynamics and optical survey observations, with a particular emphasis on space debris. He has more than 25 years of experience in space debris research and established a research group which asserts a world-leading position in optical space debris surveillance and characterization. In this context he conducted numerous European Space Agency (ESA) studies for the optical detection of space debris and Space Situational Awareness in general. Scientific highlights include the detection of decimeter-size debris in geostationary orbits and the discovery of an unexpected population of debris objects with extremely high area-to-mass ratios. He is a member of the ESA delegation in the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee IADC, and a member of the Swiss delegation in UNCOPUOS and its working group on long-term sustainability of activities in outer space. In 2013 he was appointed as the Chair of the ESA Space Situational Awareness Advisory Group advising the ESA Director responsible for the SSA programme.

Challenges Related to Discovery, Follow-Up, and Characterization of Space Debris“
The proliferation of space debris and the increased probability of collisions and interference raise concerns about the long-term sustainability of space activities, particularly in the low-Earth orbit and geostationary orbit environments. During recent years governments, space agencies and civilian research organizations increased their efforts to build space object catalogues and to investigate the space debris population in different orbit regions. Understanding the nature and the sources of debris is a prerequisite to provide the scientific foundation for a sustainable use of near-Earth space.
This presentation will describe current space debris research activities to detect, follow up, and characterize space debris. Optical observation techniques will be presented and illustrated with examples from the long-standing observation programs of the Astronomical Institute of the University of Bern (AIUB). Particular challenges related to the build-up and maintenance of an orbital catalogue will be addressed. These include problems like the “tracklet-to-tracklet” correlation, initial orbit determination and the specific issues associated with high area-to-mass ratio objects (HAMR).

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