Space Debris Sensor Waiting for Launch
This article originally appeared in Orbital Debris Quarterly News, Volume 21, Issue 1, February 2017.
The Space Debris Sensor (SDS) has completed functional testing and been delivered to the Kennedy Space Center for final integration checkout with the International Space Station (ISS). From there it will go into storage until a SpaceX launch vehicle is ready to deliver it to the ISS. Launch is currently scheduled for late 2017.
The SDS is a flight demonstration of an impact sensor designed to detect and characterize impacts by small debris objects. The sensor will be attached to the ESA Columbus module facing the ISS velocity vector with one square meter of detection area. The sensor combines multiple technologies to measure the time, speed, direction, size, and density of objects greater than 50 µm in size. With this information, as well as the orbital position of each detection, the sensor should collect enough data over its intended minimum 2-year mission to update the NASA Orbital Debris Engineering Model for objects smaller than 1 mm near ISS altitudes. With lessons learned from the SDS experience, a follow-on mission to place a second-generation sensor at higher altitudes will someday provide the ability to update the risk from small debris to many operational spacecraft in low Earth orbit.