Space junk is an ever-increasing threat with decades of discarded fuel tanks, lost tools and parts of derelict satellites threatening to collide with spacecrafts. Over the past few years, scientists have proposed several clean-up methods including NASA’s laser displacement system, solar powered micro-satellites and China’s anti-satellite weaponry. However, Marco Castronuovo of the Italian Space Agency believes he has found a solution: a space junk collecting spacecraft.
Writing in the journal Acta Astronautica, Castronuovo proposes a satellite that would rendezvous with larger pieces of space debris such as spent rocket bodies. It would then attach a propellant kit that would force the debris into the Earth’s atomosphere where it would burn up. By using this method, it could remove approximately five or six pieces of large debris per year. Granted, there are more than 17,000 objects of a size greater than 10cm in Earth’s orbit, it’s a start!
“In our opinion the problem is very challenging and it’s quite urgent as well,” said Marco Castronuovo speaking to BBC News. “The time to act is now; as we go farther in time we will need to remove more and more fragments.”
This is due to the Kessler Syndrome where pieces of debris hit each other creating smaller and more numerous fragments. They in turn create a cloud of debris that make huge areas of Earth’s orbit hazardous to satellites and any manned space missions.
“It’s difficult from a political point of view; many of these objects belong to nations that are not willing to co-operate or do not allow access to their objects even if they are at the end of their operative life, and there is no international regulation on who should remove the objects that are left in space,” Castronuovo added.
In essence, if we want to go back to the Moon or further, we are going to have to clean up the mess we have already created.
Via BBC News