The European Space Agency estimates about 750,000 pieces of debris of more than a centimeter are constantly in orbit around the Earth. About 18,000 of these objects are large enough to be watched by monitoring...
The European Space Agency estimates about 750,000 pieces of debris of more than a centimeter are constantly in orbit around the Earth. About 18,000 of these objects are large enough to be watched by monitoring systems. The average speed of such space debris is about 40,000 kilometers per hour and it poses a threat both for missile launches and for astronauts working on the ISS. If too much debris accumulates in orbit, the area around the Earth may become unsuitable for space flights.
The British company SSTL, in cooperation with specialists from other countries, have developed a satellite “RemoveDebris” which is designed to collect space debris in orbit. During its test launch, the satellite will demonstrate the operation of its debris capture system. Two “CubeSat” satellites will be used as space debris. “RemoveDebris” will catch one of them at a distance of about 7 meters using a net that will entangle the object with the help of small motors. To capture the second satellite it will use a special harpoon, which has about one and a half meters range.
The spacecraft is not only equipped with a capture system, but also with equipment for monitoring debris in orbit. The data collected with the camera and LIDAR will be sent to Earth for processing using special algorithms.
On April 2nd, SpaceX launched a “Dragon” spacecraft with a 100 kilogram “RemoveDebris” satellite and 2.65 tons of cargo to the ISS. The cargo ship will return on May 11th and should bring back almost 2 tons of cargo and waste from the station.
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