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Naval Research Lab Secures Space Debris Detection Sensor Patent; Christoph Englert Comments

naval research laboratoryThe U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s geospace science and technology division has obtained a U.S. patent for a compact sensor designed to help detect small debris in space.

NRL said Thursday the concept behind the Optical Orbital Debris Spotter intends to use a conic mirror and a low-power laser to permanently create a light sheet and spot particles that orbit the Earth as tiny as 0.01 centimeters.

“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,” Englert added.

NRL said it expects the sensor to generate additional data that could be used with space debris tracking models and tools, including the Orbital Debris Engineering Model from NASA and the Space Surveillance Network.

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