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 Mission ” in this issue of the ODQN.