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Swiss Space Program Targets Thousands Of Pieces Of 'Orbital Debris'

Swiss Space Program Targets Thousands Of Pieces Of 'Orbital Debris' | Space junk | Scoop.it

"More than 21,000 orbital debris larger than 10 cm are known to exist. The estimated population of particles between 1 and 10 cm in diameter is approximately 500,000. The number of particles smaller than 1 cm exceeds 100 million."

 

Countries pursue space programs for a variety of reasons — to communicate faster; to track the weather; to spy on one another; to prove they, too, can put something in space. Leave it to Switzerland to launch a project that has the simple goal of keeping things tidy. As Global Post reports, the Swiss Space Center's CleanSpace One project is the start of an effort to clean up some of the space junk currently orbiting the Earth.

 

Enter the Swiss. They've only been putting things into orbit for a few years now, but now that they've gotten a look at the Earth's debris field, they've decided to do something about it — like playing Felix to the rest of the world's Oscar. GP's Thomas Mucha writes, "In other words, they're planning to launch giant vacuum cleaners into space to suck up debris, and then safely send it back down to earth."

 

At the website for Switzerland's Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne, the process is explained in more technical detail: "After its launch, the cleanup satellite will have to adjust its trajectory in order to match its target's orbital plane. To do this, it could use a new kind of ultra-compact motor designed for space applications that is being developed in EPFL laboratories. When it gets within range of its target, which will be traveling at 28,000 km/h at an altitude of 630-750 km, CleanSpace One will grab and stabilize it – a mission that's extremely dicey at these high speeds, particularly if the satellite is rotating."


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Reducing space junk: DARPA unveils robotic plan to reuse, recycle satellites in 2015

Reducing space junk: DARPA unveils robotic plan to reuse, recycle satellites in 2015 | Space junk | Scoop.it

Although many of the parts of satellites are highly specialized or internal to the structure, a few standard pieces—the aperture, solar arrays—are easily accessible and can be used on hardware with different purposes.

 

On Tuesday, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced the next stage in an ambitious project called Phoenix, which it hopes will bring about the first demonstration of robotic, in-orbit satellite servicing in 2015.

 

The servicing, however, won't involve the repair of an existing satellite—instead, one that has already been retired will be scavenged for spare parts. If all goes well, the antenna (or aperture) of the defunct satellite will be linked with one or more small "satlets" that will return it to active duty.

 

"[Phoenix is a] modest effort to increase the return-on-investment for DoD [Department of Defense] space missions," Dave Barnhart, a DARPA program manager, said at a recent press conference.

 

It costs a lot of money to put something into geosynchronous orbit, and not everything that's been put there remains active. In many cases, this is because of the failure or obsolescence of only some of their hardware, while other parts remain perfectly viable and functioning. (In fact, we already know they've functioned after launch and deployment.)

 

In short, the Phoenix project is essentially a very complicated recycling program. "If you have the ability to utilize hardware that's up there, you can do this at a lower cost," Barhart added.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Space Debris Illustrated: The Problem in Pictures

Space Debris Illustrated:  The Problem in Pictures | Space junk | Scoop.it

Space junk, space debris, space waste — call it what you want, but just as junk and waste cause problems here on Earth, in space spent booster stages, nuts and bolts from ISS construction, various accidental discards such as spacesuit gloves and cameras, and fragments from exploded spacecraft could turn into a serious problem for the future of spaceflight if actions to mitigate the threat are not taken now. The European Space Operations Centre has put together some startling images highlighting this issue. Above is a depiction of the trackable objects in orbit around Earth in low Earth orbit (LEO–the fuzzy cloud around Earth), geostationary Earth orbit (GEO — farther out, approximately 35,786 km (22,240 miles) above Earth) and all points in between.

 


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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NASA Turns to 3D Printing for Self-Building Spacecraft

NASA Turns to 3D Printing for Self-Building Spacecraft | Space junk | Scoop.it
A NASA-backed 3D printing effort could lead to space manufacturing of huge telescopes or spacecraft.
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