Every space mission has a risk of encountering micrometeoroids and space debris. The damage sustained by a collision with one of these objects is significant due to their potentially high relative velocity, and can even lead to the complete loss of the mission. Given that the majority of objects are too small to be currently detected using ground-based detection methods, model validation is carried out using measurement data from retrievable space systems. The validation of the small object populations (100 µm – 1 cm) is very limited. Data is only available for certain orbital heights and inclinations, as well as during certain periods of time, which, in some instances, dates back more than 20 years (see Tab. 1). Given that space debris is very dynamic, the available data is insufficient when it comes to describing its location. Since the end of the US Space Shuttle Programme in July 2011, the possibility of developing new retrievable instruments is very low. Thus, there exists a great need to quantify via experimental means in orbit, the distribution of space debris.
Tab. 1: Retrievable instruments in orbit. DM= Duration (in days) spent in orbit, h=Orbit height, i=Inclination, (Liou et al. 2002; Flegel et al. 2011; UN Report 1999; McDonnell 2004).
These gaps in knowledge can be filled thanks to the SOLID detector system developed by the DLR Institute of Space Systems. The detector system will be tested in space during the TechnoSat mission organised by Berlin University. The data obtained will enable software models such as MASTER (ESA) and ORDEM (NASA) to be validated. Enhanced simulation results from the space debris model can be interpreted and optimised by, for example, satellite protection systems on spacecraft, and can also be used to reduce the amount of new space debris. Alongside this optimisation process, the continuous improvement process (KVP) is also being enhanced. The further development of the system is taking place in accordance with internationally recognised guidelines and recommendations with regard to, for example, design, manufacturing, materials, operations and the disposal of spacecraft.