Science

Space Debris Sensor Will Protect The ISS From Space Junk

If you thought that people are dealing with garbage only on Earth, you are wrong. The International Space Station will receive a new gadget that will help them fight debris, the Space Debris Sensor, a smart shield. Small pieces of broken satellites and old pieces of launched rockets can jeopardize the working satellites that are attached to the International Space Station, or the space station itself. The new smart shield should arrive to the ISS early next week.

Space Debris Sensor
WikiImages / Pixabay

The SpaceX cargo will launch next Tuesday and deliver a project called the Space Debris Sensor to the space station, among with the rest of the supply for the International Space Station., as stated in Nasa’s press release. The Space Debris Sensor was initially called Debris Resistive/Acoustic Grid orbital Navy-NASA Sensor, or DRAGONS. However, it had to change names due to the fact it would travel within the SpaceX Dragon Capsule. While large pieces of space junk can be monitored from the earth, there are a lot of tiny fragments which will be detected by the sensor, as it focuses on debris smaller than a millimeter, smaller than a grain of salt or sand.

While such small pieces of space junk sounds ridiculous to be worried about, it can damage the space station and satellites nearby. The Space Debris Sensor which will travel aboard the SpaceX cargo will give measurements of everything that touches the shield. The sensor functions in a way that will allow the debris to enter through two layers of the shield in order to collect the information the researchers need and the third layer of shield will stop the space junk. The sensor will help to measure the size, speed, direction, time and energy of small debris that is up there.

The sensor’s outer layer consists of a grid of thin electrical wires, which will break when they are hit, leaving a dark spot in that area. A second layer is located about six inches back, which will help measure the speed and direction of the debris. The final, third layer will block the debris, allowing the scientists to learn how heavy the debris is, so that they can try to identify the material.

The design of the Space Debris Sensor took more than a decade to perfect, so that it can withstand a lot of debris  that the International Space Station, or other satellites are exposed to. In the future, if this project proves itself a success, the scientists who made the shield will work on a similar shield which will be placed further out in space than the ISS, as there is more space debris out there which could compromise future space missions.