Russian Scientists Incredible Proposal to Remove Space Debris, Save Future Space Missions

  • According to NASA, an average of one cataloged piece of debris has fallen back to Earth each day for the past 50 years.
  • Russian scientist Vladimir Aslanov proposed a new way to remove small space debris using a heavy collector.
  • The group of scientists is ready to start working on the prototype with the financial aid from the Russian Science Foundation.

The Russian scientists in the Department of Theoretical Mechanics, Samara National Research University discovered an effective method to deal with space debris. Samara National Research University is one of Russia’s leading engineering and technical institutions. It is located in the City of Samara.

Space debris is a real issue, including obsolete spacecraft, chunks of satellites and rockets, momentum flywheels, nuclear reactor cores and fragments of rockets. According to NASA, an average of one cataloged piece of debris has fallen back to Earth each day for the past 50 years and there are millions of pieces of space junk flying in Earth orbit. The European Space Agency (ESA) estimates there have been about 500 break-ups, collisions, explosions or other fragmentation events considered space debris. Additionally, space debris moves about 10 times faster than a bullet, and no one can see a bullet coming. The current space debris in several orbits can be dangerous to future space missions.

Russian scientist Vladimir Aslanov proposed a new way to remove small space debris using a heavy collector. The abstract was published in research gate and will be available in the November edition of Acta Astronautica.

The proposed method involves a three stage process:

  1. Capturing of debris into an area bounded by the hill sphere of the heavy collector.
  2. Towing and discharging debris in a graveyard orbit.
  3. The plane motion equations of the debris relative to the collector are written in the Local-Vertical-L. The equation motion of the collector in oscillating elements is written while factoring in the engine thrust. The interaction of the debris and the collector is described by means of the inelastic impact theory.

An inelastic collision is one in which part of the kinetic energy is changed to some other form of energy in the collision.

The values of the thrust force of the collector are determined, at which the debris can be captured and towed or discharged in the graveyard orbit. A heavy satellite as orbital collector located near GEO (Geospace) plays the role of a moon.

Geospace is a region of outer space near Earth, including the upper atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetosphere.

The group of scientists is ready to start working on the prototype with the financial aid from the Russian Science Foundation which was established on the initiative of the President of the Russian Federation to support basic research and development of leading research teams in different fields of science.

A valid concern would be the cost of fuel used for the collection.

Last year, a UK satellite became the first to clean some of the space junk in orbit, using its on-board net technology. The RemoveDEBRIS satellite was built by a consortium of space companies and research institutions led by the Surrey Space Centre, a world leading Centre of Excellence in Space Engineering.

The Demonstration of the Net Technology

It is an interesting proposal and until prototype completion and testing, the results remain to be seen. In the past, there have been a myriad of proposals globally on space junk removal, but many failed to get to the prototype phase. However, space debris is a serious issue and continues to pose risks.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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