Can a Satellite Clean Up the Mess of Another One?


A new spacecraft has become the latest effort for space garbage removal, which has been a more pressing issue today because of the safety risks for astronauts and other existing satellites.

RemoveDEBRIS will work by trapping bits and pieces of decommissioned satellites with a kevlar net. Space debris can become incinerated when they fall back to Earth’s atmosphere, although some might collide with other junk that poses a bigger problem.

Garbage Cleanup

A collision between two space parts is problematic since it creates small pieces. These parts will then travel along the Earth’s orbit at more than 17,000 miles per hour. The speed of their movement and their miniature size comprise some of the challenges for cleaning up the mess.

However, the more significant concern involves accountability. No government has a distinct jurisdiction on the Earth’s orbit, and this means that space trash practically falls under everyone’s responsibility. For now, RemoveDEBRIS seems to be the better option for the removal of old spacecraft parts.

A Tiny Solution

The launch of smaller satellites can help in reducing the difficulty of collecting space junk later on. By using a GNSS or an inertial simulator, satellite developers can also assist in determining the probability of collision between an existing or old spacecraft.

However, the bigger attraction concerning smaller satellites involves their lower cost and better efficiency. The CubeSat sector mainly comprises of spacecraft no bigger than a loaf of bread, which naturally costs more than launching a traditional satellite. These are also more efficient in revisiting their spots over Earth, being able to do so at least once every 10 to 15 minutes.

Governments are yet to determine their share of responsibility for space garbage removal, so it’s important to be more conscious about developing new satellites that will not be high-speed space projectiles in the future.