Space may be big, really big, but Earth orbit is getting a bit crowded as space debris accumulates and threatens operational spacecraft. Riding aboard the last Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station was part of the answer to this problem. NASA’s Space Debris Sensor (SDS) will be installed on the outside of the station, where it will spend the next two to three years monitoring debris between 5 mm to 0.5 mm in diameter to learn more about their characteristics.
Currently, there are over 1,400 operational satellites orbiting the Earth at distances from a few hundred to tens of thousands of miles above the planet. Over the past 60 years since the first Sputnik, our civilization has become completely dependent on these satellites.
Without them, everything from the internet to commerce to national defence would be crippled overnight. Today, we depend on satellites for much of our long-distance communications and data transmission, weather monitoring, navigation, defence reconnaissance and many scientific investigations.