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  Collecting, disposing of orbital debris in orbit

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Author Topic:   Collecting, disposing of orbital debris in orbit

Posts: 14
From: Houston
Registered: Apr 2010

posted 07-31-2010 11:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aeropix   Click Here to Email Aeropix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
At what point would it become economically viable to consider collecting space debris and either throwing it into the atmosphere or returning it to the earth? I know it must be expensive since each single debris is in it's own orbit. Perhaps a dedicated "robotic space tug" could go orbit to orbit and collect junk slowly over time?

Perhaps we need some kind of spaceborne "environmental regulation" like on Mt. Everest, where we must not launch anything that cannot be recovered or disposed of properly. This debris situation cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely, or launching anything will become exceedingly tricky and hazardous.

Any thoughts in this area?


Posts: 3023
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-31-2010 02:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are technologies in work to help accomplish this -

One example: A mission to clear dangerous debris from space:

Scientists at the University of Surrey, working on the project funded by the European space company Astrium, have devised a 3 kg miniature satellite or "nanosatellite" fitted with a "solar sail".

"CubeSail" is a device which can be fitted to satellites or launch vehicle upper stages that are sent into orbit and then can be deployed to successfully de-orbit equipment that has reached the end of its mission.

A 5 x 5 m, 3 kg, deployable sail is being developed to fit in a 10 x 10 x 30 cm nanosatellite and will be used in a demonstration mission to be launched in late 2011 demonstrating passive means of deorbiting for future satellites.

Dr Vaios Lappas, lead researcher on the project and Senior Lecturer in Space Vehicle Control at the Surrey Space Centre, said: "Protecting our planet and environment is key for sustainable growth. CubeSail is a novel, low cost space mission which will demonstrate for the first time space debris/satellite deorbiting using an ultra light 5 x 5 sail stowed and supported on a 3 kg nanosatellite.

“Successful deployment and testing of the sail can enable a low cost/mass solution to be used for future satellites and launch vehicle upper stages reducing dramatically the problem of space debris.

"Following successful in orbit demonstration, the proposed deorbit system will be offered as a standard deorbit system for Low Earth Orbit missions for satellites with a mass of less than 500 kg at a very low cost."

Scott Schneeweis, LCDR, USN(Ret);

All times are CT (US)

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