The International Space Station will shortly have a new tool that will help it better preserve itself from the severe threat of space debris. Investigators have warned that space debris is a growing threat against current and future space missions. Even the smallest debris, travelling at speeds of up to 17,500 miles per hour, will inflict significant damage to spacecraft. The ISS is designed to resist minor results, but it will need all the help that it can get to remain as safe as possible.
SpaceX will launch on Dec. 12, the Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket to carry out a resupply service mission that will be covered by NASA. The Dragon will include almost 4,800 pounds of cargo, including research, hardware and crew supplies. One of the most significant contents of the Dragon will be the Space Debris Sensor. The device was named the Debris Resistive/Acoustic Grid Orbital Navy-NASA Sensor, or DRAGONS initially, but NASA determined to change the name because it would be redundant with the name of SpaceX’s spacecraft.
The Space Debris Sensor will not only shield the ISS, but it will also take measures of all the things that hit it, including their speed, size, time, direction, and energy. Space debris will be enabled to pass through two layers to collect the data, with the third layer then stopping the objects. The Space Debris Sensor will operate as extra protection for the ISS, but the data that it will collect is just as relevant. Investigators will be able to use the data to monitor the risks of collisions with smaller space debris and generate more accurate estimates of their existence in space.
The U.S. Department of Defense monitors the more critical space debris, including 20,000 objects as big as baseballs and 50,000 objects as big as marbles. The Space Debris Sensor, while, will focus on space junk that is only 50 microns to 1 millimetre in diameter, of which there are millions in space. The configuration of SDS enables the sensor to measure the size, speed, direction, time, and energy of any small debris it comes into contact with. While the acoustic sensors calculate the time and location of a penetrating result, the grid measures change in resistance to provide size estimates of the impactor. The sensors in the backstop also measure the hole created by an impactor, which is used to define the impactor’s velocity.