Nifty New SDS Space Debris Sensor For ISS

The ISS (International Space Station) is getting a nifty SDS - that's a Space Debris Sensor.

This calibrated impact sensor, which is mounted on the exterior of the station, monitors impacts caused by small-scale space debris. The sensor was incorporated into the ISS back in September, where it will monitor impacts for the next two to three years. This information will be used to measure and characterize the orbital debris environment and help space agencies develop additional counter-measures.

Measuring about 1 square meter (~10.76 ft²), the SDS is mounted on an external payload site which faces the velocity vector of the ISS. The sensor consists of a thin front layer of Kapton – a polyimide film that remains stable at extreme temperatures – followed by a second layer located 15 cm (5.9 inches) behind it. This second Kapton layer is equipped with acoustic sensors and a grid of resistive wires, followed by a sensor-embedded backstop.

As Dr. Mark Burchell, one of the co-investigators and collaborators on the SDS from the University of Kent, told Universe Today via email:

"The idea is a multi layer device. You get a time as you pass through each layer. By triangulating signals in a layer you get position in that layer. So two times and positions give a velocity… If you know the speed and direction you can get the orbit of the dust and that can tell you if it likely comes from deep space (natural dust) or is in a similar earth orbit to satellites so is likely debris. All this in real time as it is electronic."

Science fiction writers have long known about the importance of detecting stuff that is floating around in space; John W. Campbell wrote about a radio meteor detector in his 1931 classic Islands of Space and George O. Smith was equally insistent on having meteor-spotting radar in his 1943 story Recoil.

Arthur C. Clarke further fleshed out an idea he called Operation Cleanup in his 1978 novel The Fountains of Paradise, describing ships whose "radars - designed to locate oncoming missles at extreme ranges with no advance warning - could easily pinpoint the debris of the early Space Age".

Via PhysOrg.

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