And now for a little stimulation from the mental gymnasium. BB presents an interesting snippet on the Swiss solution for space junk. The Swiss in Space.
A Swiss team of scientist has initiated the CleanSpace One project. In a fit of obsessive compulsive cleaning the Swiss have had enough of everyone leaving their junk in low earth orbit and have taken it upon themselves to clean up our act. The Swiss Space Center at EPFL has indeed this week announced the their intentions. The CleanSpace One project has been initiated to develop and build the first installment of a family of satellites specially designed to clean up space debris.
“It has become essential to be aware of the existence of this debris and the risks that are run by its proliferation,” says Claude Nicollier, astronaut and EPFL professor. To move beyond mere rhetoric and take immediate action to get this stuff out of orbit, the Swiss Space Center at EPFL is launching CleanSpace One, a project to build the first prototype in a family of “de-orbiting” satellites.
While America sits back complaining that there was still cheese on that pizza box the Swiss rummage through their trash, large trash bag in hand. Meanwhile Australia sits on the couch with a beer in hand, stating none of that junk is theirs. Russia on the other hand just keeps muttering what junk, no junk, still good.
According to the CleanSpace One plan the kamikaze satellites will be shot into space, grab hold of and drag the unwanted satellite back to earth, burning it up in re-entry, hopefully. With over 16,000 objects larger than 10 centimetres in diameter in orbit and being tracked by NASA there is obviously a fair amount of recycling to be done. DARPA has a far superior plan that has been previously announced, the project to dismantle and reuse retired and broken satellites. Read the full Highpants Borg Satellite article here. The X-37B mini unmanned shuttle is potentially already performing these tasks right now, and its re-useable, no kamikaze required.
The use of low earth orbit as a kind of hard rubbish collection day is a very short term solution, especially as we start to put more people and equipment into orbit. With multiple space stations – China is next – and the requirement to launch many more rockets each year a clear and safe path is more important than ever. Thankfully even if DARPA and the X-47B can’t get the job done the Swiss are on it, ready to organise our satellites into nice little collection, sorted by colour, shape and used by date.
Source: Swiss Space Center at EPFL