by Richard Tomkins
Washington (UPI) May 28, 2015
A U.S. Navy device that detects small debris in space and provides data on their trajectory has been granted a U.S. patent.
The Optical Orbital Debris Spotter from the Naval Research Laboratory is compact in size, uses low power and can be integrated into larger satellite designs or flown independently onboard nano-satellite platforms, the Navy said.
The device concept is the creation of a continuous, permanent light sheet by using a collimated light source, such as a low-power laser.
All particles intersecting the light sheet will scatter the light from the source, independent of the time of intersection with the plane of the light sheet.
"When the flight path of an orbital debris object intersects the light sheet, the object will scatter the light, and a portion of that scattered light can be detected by a wide angle camera," said Dr.
Christoph Englert, research physicist at NRL. "The knowledge of the light sheet geometry and the angles of the scattering event with respect to the camera, derived from the signal location on the sensor, allow the determination of the intersection point, and possibly even size, and shape information about the debris particle.
"Using a dedicated nano-satellite, or CubeSat, the system could also be used for gathering of more comprehensive debris field data.
"Losing the satellite at some point during the mission by a fatal collision could be considered a justifiable risk in comparison to the odds of getting unprecedented data sets for debris field characterization and modeling."
Data sets collected by the sensor concept could be incorporated into modeling and tracking software for incorporation into a global space tracking tools such as the Space Surveillance Network, NASA's Orbital Debris Engineering Model, and the European Space Agency's Optical Ground Station.
"Man-made debris orbiting the Earth continues to increase at an alarming rate - with objects smaller than one centimeter exceeding 100 million," the Navy said.
"The effects of collisions occurring at orbital velocities approaching speeds of several kilometers (miles) per second can range from minor to catastrophic. In Low Earth Orbit, where many space-based assets reside, small debris objects are of concern not only due to their abundance, but because they are often difficult to track or even detect on a routine basis."
Space Technology News - Applications and Research
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|