Using LiDAR Technology to Detect Small Space Debris in LEO

Source: World Maps Online
Source: Gifer
Crack from the paint chip, cm in length. Source: The Verge
Visual of LiDAR being used by autonomous vehicles. Source: Forbes
The relation that determines the detection surface. Source: Astrophysics Data System

Velocity of small space debris

All moving objects experience a Doppler shift. The signals from moving objects, such as our space debris, have a Doppler shift proportional to their speed. We can measure the Doppler frequency shift of the backscattered radiation which is how we plan to calculate velocity of the debris.

Position of small space debris

Our Doppler LiDAR releases pulses of light in succession while scanning the backscattered light from debris. This means that from the time delay between each outgoing transmitted pulse and the backscattered signal, the distance to the debris can be measured.

Source: Invento Robotics

The distance of the object = (speed of light x time of flight)/2

Current ground-based LiDAR systems that measure aerosols in the wind have a range up to 30 km. We plan to scale this up in space and have higher sensitivity detectors without the limitation of the atmosphere.

Profile of our Detection System

Ultimately, all of this proves that a LiDAR system is a good candidate for detecting small space debris because of its precision. If we mount a LiDAR system onto a microsatellite, we could have a functioning, accurate prototype to solve our problem. Microsats are more cost-efficient and have faster production rates than conventional satellites. Also, since we are trying to steer away from further cluttering space, using a microsatellite would align more with our mission instead of larger-sized satellites.

Source: SciJinks
Source: UCF Today

A New York City high school freshman passionate about redefining space exploration.

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