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August 1st, 2017

NASA Orbital Debris Program Office - Space Debris Sensor Update

The Space Debris Sensor (SDS) is scheduled to  launch  in  the  trunk  of  the  SpaceX  13  Dragon spacecraft  capsule  in  November  2017, according to an article in the just published Orbital Debris Quarterly News (ODQN) from NASA's Orbit Debris Program Office.

After  the capsule is mated to the International Space Station (ISS), the robotic arm will remove the sensor from the  trunk  and  attach  it  to  the  Columbus  Module external payload facility.  The SDS will be mounted facing the velocity vector and will remain there for at least three years collecting data on the small debris environment at the ISS.

The   SDS   is   a   technology   demonstration designed  to  determine  how  well  a  combination of detection methods can be used to characterize the  size,  speed,  direction,  and  density  of  debris smaller  than  1  mm  that  hits  the  sensor  (ODQN, vol. 21, issue 1, February 2017, p.1, “ Space Debris Sensor Waiting for Launch ” and ODQN, vol. 19, issue 1,  January  2015,  pp.  2  –  3,  “ DRAGONS  to  Fly  on the ISS”).

After  the  mission  is  complete,  the  SDS  will be  placed  in  a  Dragon  trunk  for  disposal  during re-entry.    The  knowledge  from  this  mission  will be used to update orbital debris models and help in the development of future sensors that will be placed  in  higher  orbits  where  the  small  debris environment has never been directly measured.

More     information     about     the     utility and   potential   role   of   SDS-derived   sensors   in monitoring   the   debris   population   at   altitudes higher  than  that  of  ISS/SDS  is  in  the  article “Benefits of a High LEO In-Situ Measurement Missionin this issue of the ODQN.