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As Earth’s atmosphere and beyond are slowly filling with satellites and space debris, there is increasing worry about what Earth’s future is going to look like. MIT’s revolutionary open-source tool MOCAT is designed to model the future space environment and tackle the growing challenge of space debris.

In an attempt to address the increasingly crowded environment of low Earth orbit and the growing concern over space debris, ARCLab has publicly released the MIT Orbital Capacity Assessment Tool, or in short – MOCAT.

According to Interesting Engineering, MOCAT offers users the ability to model the long-term future space environment, providing crucial insights into the potential growth of space debris and the effectiveness of debris-prevention mechanisms. Unlike other orbital modeling tools, it allows users to model individual objects, diverse parameters, orbital characteristics, fragmentation scenarios, and collision probabilities. This type of versatility shows that MOCAT is a powerful tool for comprehensive space environment analysis and management.

Richard Linares, the principal investigator for MOCAT, is optimistic about the tool’s potential impact: “MOCAT represents a significant leap forward in orbital capacity assessment. By making it open-source and publicly available, we hope to engage the global community in advancing our understanding of satellite orbits and contributing to the sustainable use of space.”

MOCAT is made out of two main components that can both be accessed via GitHub. The first, MOCAT-MC, evaluates space environment evolution through individual trajectory simulation and Monte Carlo parameter analysis, providing both an overall view and a detailed analysis of individual space objects’ evolution. MOCAT-SSEM, on the other hand, enables quick runs on personal computers within seconds to minutes.

The open-source nature of MOCAT allows users to experiment with the tool and provide feedback to guide further development. Charity Weeden, associate administrator leading NASA’s OTPS, expresses her enthusiasm and states: “This open-source modeling tool is a public good that will advance space sustainability, improve evidence-based policy analysis, and help all users of space make better decisions.”