Net to Capture Space Junk

Net to Capture Space Junk

Thursday, 8 November, 2018 - 07:00
A 1/4 scale model size of NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft is displayed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. on Friday, July 1, 2016.(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Bremen, London - Asharq Al-Awsat
Future satellites may be able to clean up their junk with a net which was designed to clean up debris in space.

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), space junks are estimated at about 166 million objects, revealed an official at Airbus Defense & Space in Bremen, Germany.

"A one-centimeter piece of metal has a strike force capable of destroying an entire satellite," said Elżbieta Bieńkowska, EU commissioner for the industry.

The US is already monitoring about 21,000 spacecraft junk objects, each measuring at least 10 centimeters. The European Union (EU) also plans to expand its space observation programs, for many purposes including the protection of the Union's Galileo and Copernicus satellites from collisions. For years, the space-active countries have been launching rockets, probes and satellites into space without considering the remains of these devices, the German news agency reported.

However, that is fundamentally changing, "as the debate is focusing on finding ways to get rid of the remains of these devices," explained ESA Expert Helmut Krag.

"We have to be prepared to have, in the future, regulations that require us to get rid of junk in space," he added.

With the support of the EU and under the supervision of the British University of Surrey, the RemoveDEBRIS Mission is planning to identify ways for eliminating debris of space devices.

For this purpose, last summer, a research satellite from the International Space Station (ISS) has been launched to catch objects hovering in space. For six years, aerospace industry experts have experimented with this net in labs and on flights in a non-gravity environment.

"The network is made like a spider web. It is a disc-shaped, regular-sized container including obvious knotted threads," explains Robert Axthelm, an Airbus expert in space research.

Axthelm, in collaboration with his colleagues, is expanding this cylinder to a 5-meter grid of soft threads.

This network is efficient in principle and has recently passed a test in space. Experts want this net to catch junk firmly and bring them back to the earth atmosphere to be burned.

Scientists from Japan and Australia are currently working on a way to curb the speed of space junk using plasma beam so that the space junk does not enter the Earth's surface faster. But the problem is that when a satellite emits a plasma beam, it will press in the other direction, which means it will need a second push to stay in its path.

After years of relentless research, researchers led by Kazunori Takahashi, of Japan's Tohoku University, have developed a system that produces opposite plasma and directs the satellite. "This discovery will be an important contribution to sustainability in space," Takahashi confidently predicted. But he does not know exactly when scientists will finish developing the system.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is monitoring these steps very carefully. It even plans to send a space junk collection mission, after the approval of ESA member states during the Ministerial Council scheduled late 2019.

"This will be a review of space junk disposal technologies," Said Helmut Krag, an expert with the European Space Agency. The largest European environment satellite is no longer emitting signals indicating it still intact, since 2012.

The satellite is still orbiting the Earth at 765 kilometers from the Earth. If nothing happens, it will take another 150 years to burn in the Earth's atmosphere.

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