- The space debris continues to be a big problem.
- It is not safe for missions and could create potential problems in the future.
- Besides Russia, other countries are creating their own designs for the removal of space junk.
The Russian State Space Corporation (ROSCOSMOS) specialists patented a “net” for catching large space debris, such as spent spacecraft, upper stages, the last stages of missiles, and similar objects. They are offered to catch in a kind of “net,” equipped with an engine.
According to the patent:
“The device is made in the form of a sliding and controlled frame with low-thrust engines located at its vertices, and the large-cell network is made in the form of a cone and fixed by the base along the perimeter of the frame, and its top is attached to the cable system of the spacecraft through a ball mechanism.”
After the space debris is inside the frame, the tapes that hold the network from disintegrating are torn, and the object is captured or covered by the network. After that, the frame is folded, thus the space debris ends up in a mesh bag. The inventors have described the principle of operation of their development.
Caught in such a “net,” space debris is proposed to either accelerate and shift to a burial orbit, or slow down, so that it enters the dense layers of the atmosphere and burns up. This will free up near-earth space. It is noted that a satellite with a “net” can remove debris automatically, that is, without the participation of ground services.
Furthermore, NASA observations confirm that, on average, one cataloged piece of debris has fallen back to Earth each day for the past 50 years. Earlier, the Japanese aerospace research Agency (JAXA) announced its intention to create a special satellite with a laser installed on it to use it to destroy space debris in orbit.
Also, last year, a UK satellite was 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.
Additionally, Russia expects to launch its first specialized satellite for the control of debris in space near the Earth in 2027. The space segment will include a group of special near-earth space monitoring devices, and is designed to achieve the maximum possible efficiency of detecting and observing space objects.
Moreover, last fall, Russian scientist Vladimir Aslanov proposed a new way to remove small space debris using a heavy collector. The startup, Astroscale, also plans to launch satellites that will collect space debris in Earth orbit thanks to a special “Velcro.”
Lastly, there is Swiss startup ClearSpace, which plans to launch a device to combat space debris in collaboration with the European Space Agency in 2025. The satellite will have to de-orbit a large part of the Vega rocket, which was launched in 2013.
Overall, space debris is a real issue, and requires cleaning solutions. This is especially true since in the next decade, space will have many exploration missions.