Space junk it is becoming one of the most prominent problems for the aerospace industry and space exploration. Dozens and dozens of satellites are left abandoned and swarming in Earth orbit after completing their missions. Astroscale has an idea to kill them: catch them with a magnet and burn them in the atmosphere.
The company is ready to put to the test the technology they have developed in recent years to wipe out space debris. ELSA-d is the name given to its mission demo that is ready to go. Through it, a spacecraft and a satellite will carry out different operations in orbit to demonstrate the viability of the technology.
What technology? Magnets Astroscale’s main ship is equipped with a powerful magnet that acts as an anchor. On the other hand, a test satellite contains a ferromagnetic module that allows it to be easily anchored to the main spacecraft. With this, the mission will test a series of anchoring and undocking with special maneuvers to see what it would be like to capture satellites, transport them and launch them into the Earth’s atmosphere.
In the coming months, the spacecraft will monitor the satellite and test its ability to grasp the satellite and carry it into the Earth’s atmosphere, where it will burn when re-entering. After carrying out a series of different maneuvers, the mission will end in September or October of this year.
If all goes well, they search create a kind of standard for the aerospace industry. A standard where the satellites of other companies integrate this ferromagnetic plate that allows them to be comfortably coupled once their useful life has ended. With this, Astroscale could capture them and remove them from orbit when companies ask for it (and pay for it).
The effort to clean the space
Astroscale actually she is not the only one in this business. Many other companies are looking for ways and means to get rid of everything that we abandon in the orbit of the Earth. One of the companies that most worries astronomers is SpaceX with its dozens of Starlink satellites launched monthly. Recently They reached an agreement with NASA to avoid collisions.
On the other hand, there are companies that are looking end the trash with cannon shots or more preventive methods such as extend the useful life of satellites. Of course, on some occasions there is no choice but to get rid of space junk, as the International Space Station recently did with 2.9 tons of old batteries.