This fall, the company Millennium Space Systems will test technology that will simplify the process of cleaning low earth orbit from spent satellites. The developers have completed testing and is ready to launch into space cubesat with built-in conductive tape, which would create additional friction and help to accelerate the process of combustion of the satellite in the atmosphere, according to Space.com.
Today around the planet are turning about 5.5 thousand satellites, but in working condition is only half of them. The remaining objects are space junk, which periodically faces between itself and poses a threat to future space missions. Many companies are working on plans to clean up near-earth space, but actually used the method of removing debris from orbit is still there. Key strategies involve the collection of debris using a special space janitors, but it requires additional costs.
Millennium Space Systems (a subsidiary of aerospace group Boeing) plans to test the system, which in the future will allow to take care of the debris before the launch of the satellite. The mission DragRacer researchers will be sent into space two almost identical cubsat weighing 12.5 pounds.
One of cube-Sats will come down from orbit into the atmosphere and burn up there alone, and the other will use the 70-meter conductive tape, which, according to the engineers, will increase the total cross section of the satellite and the force of friction that occurs due to the interaction with the oxygen ions. In addition, movement through the Earth’s magnetic field will induce a voltage along the tape. It will cause the electric current to rise through it, the electrons from the conducting ionospheric plasma will accumulate at the top and the ions at the bottom. According to the creators, so the current will create a passive electrodynamic force of friction.
The increase of the friction force, as expected in Millennium Space Systems, will significantly reduce the period of withdrawal cubsat orbit. According to calculations, if the satellite with the tape will burn up in the atmosphere a month and a half, then the second machine it will take much longer — up to nine years. In addition, the proposed technology cheaper existing projects space cleaners.
The company has already completed the creation and verification of cube-Sats, and now they are waiting to be in New Zealand, where in the fall of 2020 they will launch into space. Depending on the results of the experiment, Millennium Space Systems, or will use the tape as a standalone item or add a small power plant.
Today there are many projects for cleaning the Earth’s orbit from space debris. This includes the satellites with an adhesive layer for adhering debris and electrodynamic traps to slow down the speed of their flight, and also devices with nets to catch the remnants of the former apparatus. Learn more about the space debris problem, read our article “Trash zone”.