The European Space Agency gave the green light to Swiss company ClearSpace this week to continue developing a satellite that can clean up a large hunk of space debris.
Space has become a busy place. And we are not talking about all the planets, stars and other celestial bodies revolving around it, but about the growing amount of space junk. By this we mean all objects that man has placed in orbit around the earth and no longer has a function. Think, for example, of old fragments from launches, dead satellites, or debris created after collisions. according to NASA Last year, more than nine thousand tons of matter orbited our planet.
danger on the road
The speed of these debris can reach 30,000 kilometers per hour. In addition, it can take decades for them to enter and burn up in the atmosphere. Until then, they remain in orbit, where they pose a danger to active satellites that help forecast weather, communications, and the Internet. The International Space Station is also in danger of being hit.
So, Swiss ClearSpace is working on the ClearSpace-1 program to clean up that unwanted space. This week, that program successfully completed its first major inspection by the European Space Agency (ESA). “Together with an experienced European industrial team and close collaboration with the European Space Agency, we were able to achieve this important milestone in a technically efficient and responsible manner,” said Muriel Richard Noka, Technical Director and Co-Founder of ClearSpace, in a statement. press release.
The engineering team at ClearSpace designed a satellite with a four-armed trap, similar to the Venus flytrap. These giant grab arms allow the robotic satellite to grab space debris and send it into the atmosphere to burn up. According to ClearSpace Director Luc Piguet, the biggest challenges are matching the speed and direction of a target, and capturing it without going into another orbit. “Making unwanted space more is the last thing you want.”
With the green light from ESA, ClearSpace can focus on the next phase, as the company will fully build ClearSpace-1. The final launch will probably take place in 2026. Then the satellite will remove part of the Esa Vega rocket from space. This segment has been orbiting Earth since its launch in 2013, at an altitude of about 800 km. With this mission, ClearSpace wants to show how well the satellite works.
In the video below, you can see the ClearSpace robotic satellite in action.
picture: NASA ODPO
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