In DepthOrbital Debris

NASA sensor to study space junk the size of dust

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Science  08 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6368, pp. 1234
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6368.1234

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Space junk can be a problem—and you have got to sweat the small stuff. The U.S. Air Force already uses ground-based radars to keep track of about 23,000 objects larger than a baseball, so that satellite operators can avoid collisions by maneuvering out of the way. But objects smaller than a millimeter—think flecks of paint and splinters of shattered satellites—are far more abundant, and still dangerous. Now, NASA hopes to learn more about the microdebris with the Space Debris Sensor (SDS), set to ride a cargo rocket next week to the International Space Station. Previously, NASA studied microdebris by inspecting space shuttles that returned to Earth with pockmarked windows. The SDS will get a better sense of the population and orbits of microdebris.