There are over 5,000 tons of scattered space junk floating around in orbit above the Earth’s atmosphere. Those debris pose a serious hazard to the growing number of manned and non-manned space missions and cost substantial amount of money and resources to identify, track and classify. Thus, dealing with space junk and cleaning up Earth’s orbit from it, is the smart thing to do both in terms of space-flight safety and in terms of economizing scarce space resources.
UK researchers have designed a concept satellite that could potentially collect and drag space junk debris out of orbit. The team plans to launch a demonstration of their “CubeSail” next year and test the principles it is designed on.
In essence, CubeSail is a 3kg (6.6lb), 10cm x 10cm x 30cm (4in x 4in x 12in) nanosatellite cube that deploys a thin, 25-sq-m plastic sheet, which in turn is used both as a “drag sail” and as a “propellantless propulsion.”
The idea is that having collected its payload of garbage the satellite will eventually re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere where it is supposed to burn completely and harmlessly together with its payload.
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