An experiment with a robotic arm observing a dead satellite demonstrated a sight-based navigation system for the European Space Agency's e.Deorbit mission, used to reduce the problem was space debris.
Picture credits: ESA / CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
The European Space Agency (ESA) has redesigned its concept for the active demonstration of space debris removal monitors e.Deorbit as a multi-purpose, in-orbit maintenance vehicle Recharging satellites are used.
ESA officials issued a statement last month announcing their decision to reorient the mission.
According to Luisa Innocenti, director of ESA's Clean Space Initiative, the agency found it was difficult to raise money for a single mission. The original goal of e.Deorbit was to remove the defunct satellite Envisat from near-Earth orbit. Envisat, an eight-ton Earth observation aircraft the size of a double-decker bus, failed in April 201
ESA researchers investigated various technologies, including a net and a harpoon, that could potentially catch and remove the satellite. Due to the lack of interest in technologies aimed exclusively at debris removal, the Authority decided that the Agency could use the challenging mission as a process for a much more versatile system – a Swiss Penket multi-purpose satellite According to this statement, a whole set of in-orbit tasks can execute.
Before the final decision was made, ESA scientists conducted several studies of the satellite's detailed software models to understand how best to transform the active orbital mission into an orbit Can perform a variety of tasks, such. B. bring satellites in different orbits or attach new equipment. According to ESA officials, the active removal of space debris is just one of the possible spacecraft applications.
Because such complex tasks could not be accomplished with a net and a harpoon, ESA decided to break up the concepts and focus instead on developing a versatile robotic arm.
Innocenti told Space.com last year that the agency would spend about $ 10 million over the next few years on the development of the multipurpose robotic arm.
She said that the entire mission could cost around 300 million euros and would have to be approved by the ESA's Council of Ministers, a gathering of ministers from the ESA member states that will take place at the end of 2019.
"Today, we have the funds to develop relevant technologies, but not to remove a defunct satellite," Innocenti said in the statement. "Instead, we asked the industry to come up with proposals to remove a defunct ESA object while demonstrating service in orbit – the new path to a potentially very valuable enterprise."
She told Space.com that the vehicle could first start in 2025.
Although economic support for the active removal of space debris may be limited, the technology is considered necessary by experts. The space agencies estimate that five large, nonexistent satellites must be removed each year from low Earth orbit to prevent Kessler syndrome – the unstoppable cascade of orbital collisions between space junk fragments that NASA scientist Donald Kessler designed in the late 1970s had predicted.
With the arrival of mega-constellations, the topic becomes even more relevant, possibly sending thousands of new satellites into the already crowded orbital environment of the Earth.
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