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Miss Francesca Letizia 

Postgraduate research student with the Astro research group

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Miss Francesca Letizia is a Postgraduate research student with the Astro research group within Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Southampton.

In October 2012, I started my PhD at the University of Southampton, studying a new approach to modelling space debris evolution.  Previously I worked at the Politecnico di Torino as a research assistant, where I was involved in the optimisation of hybrid rockets.  Whilst there I had the great fortune to participate in the Global Trajectory Optimization Competition in 2012.

I obtained my MSc degree in Aerospace Engineering at the Politecnico di Torino, and a Diploma of the Alta Scuola Politecnica, a joint project with the Politecnico di Torino and the Politecnico di Milano that provides students with the basic elements to analyse how the socio-economic context influences technology development.

Research interests

Space debris has gained in the past years increasing attention from space agencies, companies and researchers trying to understand how to limit its growth.  In fact, an unlimited growth of debris would be a problem both for the environment around the Earth and also for everyday activities that rely on space infrastructures, such as GPS.

Many models of the debris population has been proposed to understand its evolution with time and to assess the efficacy of remediation strategies.  However, they usually neglect all of the objects smaller than 10cm, even though they could still be very dangerous in collisions.  This is done because the number of small objects is so large that the cost of the simulations would be too high.

The aim of my PhD is to develop a fast method to follow the motion of small fragments generated by a collision.  The approach studied considers not the single fragments but rather the cloud they form. In particular, the evolution of the cloud density with time.  In this way, it will be possible to have a quick estamation as to how the presence of small fragments changes the collision risk for operational satellites and to assess the criticality of different scenarios of collision.

My broader research interests include:

  • trajectory optimisation
  • space debris
  • spacecraft disposal strategies

Miss Francesca Letizia
Engineering, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton. SO17 1BJ United Kingdom

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