2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
The crew of the International Space Station launched the RemoveDebris satellite, designed to carry out experiments to clean up near-earth orbit from space debris, according to Space.com.
Today in orbit around the Earth, according to NASA, there are 8 thousand tons of space debris. The number of debris, the size of which exceeds one centimeter, is about 750 thousand. Despite their small size, they pose a serious threat to spacecraft operating in orbit. For example, last year a particle of space debris flying at high speed cracked a 7mm crack in the ISS observation module. At the same time, there is still no effective way to destroy the accumulated debris - now scientists are tracking the flight path of large debris and trying to adjust the orbit of the vehicles so as to avoid a dangerous collision.
The experimental RemoveDebris satellite, developed by engineers from the UK company SSTL, as well as specialists from several other European countries and South Africa, should help solve this problem. In the spring of this year, the device, along with other cargo, was delivered to the ISS by the Dragon spacecraft. The 100-kilogram device was launched into orbit around the Earth on Wednesday, June 20, at 14:30 Moscow time. Two hours later, experts from the University of Surrey confirmed that they were able to pick up a signal from a satellite.
Over the next two months, researchers will test and debug the system, after which they will begin to demonstrate technologies for collecting space debris. For this purpose, RemoveDebris will use a net and harpoon, as well as two CubeSat satellites. In September, the device will launch one of the cubesats into open space at a distance of five to seven meters. It will then eject the net and pull it off with small motors to keep the satellite from flying back into space.
In December, RemoveDebris will begin the second phase of the mission. With the help of a camera and lidar, the device will perform a visual navigation experiment. This will help track and characterize debris in orbit. The received data on the approaching objects will be sent to Earth.
Final experiments will be performed in February. RemoveDebris will release a harpoon designed to capture debris with a maximum size of 10 × 10 centimeters into a special pull-out panel. Unlike the network, it works at a closer distance - up to one and a half meters. If successful, the space janitor will deploy the sail a little later and use it in order to quickly get into the upper layers of the Earth's atmosphere and burn up in it.
Velcro satellites and electrodynamic traps are now proposed as alternative projects to clean up the orbit from debris to slow the flight speed of the debris. However, this problem still remains relevant. You can read more about it in our material "Garbage Belt".