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.
This information will enhance safety aboard the ISS by allowing scientists to monitor the risks of collisions and generate more accurate estimates of how small-scale debris exists in space. As noted, the more critical pieces of debris in orbit are constantly observed. These consists of the roughly 20,000 objects that are about the size of a baseball, and an extra 50,000 that are about the size of a marble.
One of the suggested solutions for cleaning up space debris is a new robotic gripper that uses adhesives inspired by geckos. By itself though, the technology will likely not be enough to eliminate all the junk floating around space right now.
In order show how much space pollution we humans have created, Stuart Grey, a scientist and lecturer at the University College London, has made a video which compares the amount of space debris present in 1957 with space chunks in 2015. It was 1957 when Russians launched the Sputnik satellite and released first of the man-made chunk in space. Since then there has been tremendous increase in the numbers and now these numbers have grown so much that they are threatening space projects and more importantly mankind itself.
Every white dot in the video represents a space debris released during space missions. Agencies have started proposing ideas to clear up space chunk before things quickly get out of hand.