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The aerospace companies have decided to solve one of the big questions in Universe related to the Space junk with the mission of RemoveDebris. On September 16 consortium of universities and aerospace companies successfully tested a net designed to snag orbiting debris and drag it down into Earth’s atmosphere, where it would burn up harmlessly.
RemoveDebris is an EU (European Union) Framework 7 (FP7) research project to develop and fly a low cost in-orbit demonstrator mission that aims to de-risk and verify technologies needed for future ADR (Active Debris Removal) missions. It is not an end-to-end demonstration of a full ADR mission. However, it will demonstrate the use, on-orbit, of some of the key aspects of a ‘real’ ADR mission.
The mission of RemoveDebris is to remove old satellites and other large debris (the size of a bus and weighing a few tons), because it is considered as one of the biggest threats to the International Space Station and satellites in Low-Earth orbit.
“If they collide with other things, they can explode and break into thousands of fragments,” Aglietti said of these objects. “Rather than trying to remove smaller bits, which would be technologically very challenging, we think the best thing is to remove large pieces — especially those in busy orbits.”
Astronomers worry about that it is possible to come a day, when launching new satellites will be too risky, because the U.S. Department of Defense tracks more than 500,000 pieces of space junk in orbit around Earth, including about 20,000 objects larger than a softball.
“We’re at the tipping point,” said John Crassidis, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University at Buffalo, who is not involved with the RemoveDebris mission. “If we don’t do something, it’s not going to be that much longer before there’s so much space junk and the probability of a collision is so great that nobody is going to want to insure satellites anymore.”