Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Finally- Serious space debris plans

CleanSpaceOne plan. From the article on Parabolic Arc:

"That wasn't a laser blast... something hit us!" - paraphrasing a certain space smuggler.

Orbiting the Earth at present are tens of thousands of satellites, pieces of satellites and rockets, and fragments of space programs that have been placed there over the last fifty years. NASA uses radar to track 16,000+ items which could potentially cause damage to functioning satellites and spacecraft. Every now and then, even here on SpaceRubble we comment on the ISS needing to use thrusters to play "dodgeball" with a dangerous piece of debris. Lately, more and more space programs are considering the danger from all this wreckage in space.

Here come the Swiss! According to the article "Swiss Developing Way of Taking Out SPace Trash" on the website Parabolic Arc, the Swiss Space Agency has found a niche to master: ridding Earth orbit of non-functional satellites. CleanSpaceOne is a trash-intercepting satellite which will match orbits with a piece of debris, carefully approach and grapple with the object, then alter its orbit so the two will burn up in the atmosphere in re-entry.

At a cost of over 10 million Swiss Franks, each mission will be initially very expensive just to remove a dead satellite. Space Program planners will have to start including costs for eventual "disposal" at the end of their planned missions. At least this will be a start of the very necessary clean up of Earth orbit. Perhaps it will inspire others to find less expensive ways to deal with the problem. CleanSpaceOne is expected to be tested within the next three years.

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