Lightsheet Sensor for the Detection of Orbital Debris

Authors: Andrew C. Nicholas (Speaker), Christoph R. Englert, Charlie Brown, Ted T. Finne , Kenneth D. Marr, Christopher R. Binz, Liam M. Healy, Scott T. Kindl (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Code 7630, 4555 Overlook Ave SW, Washington, DC 20375, USA)

Abstract: The in-situ detection of small orbital debris and micrometeorites, both potentially posing a risk to most space missions, requires a combination of a large sensor area and large time coverage. For example, a sensor with a time area product of 3 m2 per years will make a significant contribution to our understanding of the near Earth small debris population. Deploying large sensors in space, however, is generally resource intensive due to their size and weight. The lightsheet concept allows the creation of a “virtual witness plate,” which is created without any supporting physical structure and therefore presents an attractive opportunity for the deployment of small size, weight, and power instruments anywhere between low Earth orbit to interplanetary space. The lightsheet sensor can be tailored to optimize performance to meet the needs of various applications. In this paper, we describe the lightsheet sensor concept, laboratory/model results and discuss potential orbital debris applications.