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Space & Astronomy

ESA to launch space debris collector in 2025

December 9, 2019 | Comment icon 4 comments



Our planet is surrounded by thousands of items of space junk. Image Credit: NASA
If successful, the mission will be the first ever to remove a piece of space junk from Earth's orbit.
Satellites and spacecraft are already running a daily gauntlet of spent rocket stages, screws, bolts and other objects that currently encircle our world. As time goes on, the problem will reach the point at which it will be too risky to send anything else up into space due to the risk of a collision.

As things stand, there are estimated to be more than 3,500 defunct satellites and as many as 750,000 smaller fragments of debris circling far above our heads with more being added all the time.

"Imagine how dangerous sailing the high seas would be if all the ships ever lost in history were still drifting on top of the water," said ESA's director general Jan Worner.

"That is the current situation in orbit, and it cannot be allowed to continue."
Now in a renewed bid to tackle the problem, ESA is planning to launch a four-armed robotic spacecraft that will attempt to grab a single piece of debris and drag it out of orbit.

Known as ClearSpace-1, the mission will target a specific object known as Vespa which was left in orbit by ESA's Vega launcher in 2013. Once the spacecraft latches on it will drag the object back towards Earth where both will burn up in the planet's atmosphere.

While this might seem like a drop in the ocean given how much junk is up there, the endeavour will help to pave the way for more ambitious debris collection missions in the future.

Eventually, reusable rockets and satellites that de-orbit themselves once they have become defunct could help to significantly slow down the build-up of debris.

Until then however, keeping Earth's orbit clear of junk is going to be quite a challenge.

Source: The Guardian | Comments (4)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Seti42 3 years ago
About time. We should have been doing this since the 80's. The USA and Russia should pay for most of it, too. Not like the US and Russia pay their bills or clean up their messes, though...
Comment icon #2 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 3 years ago
And, increasingly, China.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Cam Gibb 3 years ago
With so many junk items in earth orbit, the cost of sending 1 robot to grab 1 and bring it down at specific point and time to likely land safely in Pacific, does not seem practical as to cost. I imagined decades ago that they'd of been testing economical reliable safe ways to force the many objects either farther out towards sun, letting sun gravity slowly draw them in to sun, or force em down to earth. But so many objects means likely some will cause land buildings damage human casualties. So a means to force them out to sun seems most practical. Just need to experiment on what could repeated... [More]
Comment icon #4 Posted by Jon the frog 3 years ago
They need to put a ''de-orbit able'' rule on all new satellites. Laser in high orbit system could push down some stuff all year long with a good solar panel array. Heating up a side. They are working on it: https://www.science.org.au/curious/space-time/shoving-space-junk-out-way-lasers  


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