On Monday morning (22), local time, the Baikonur Cosmodrome, a rocket base located in Kazakhstan, launched the End-of-Life Services by Astroscale (ELSA-d) mission, which, according to expectations , carries a technology capable of assisting in the cleaning of space debris that orbits our planet.
More than 8 thousand metric tons of debris put at risk various systems, such as those for location (GPS), weather and telecommunications, since they can reach vital equipment for the operation of solutions here on Earth. One of the ways to get them out of the way is to redirect them to the atmosphere, which naturally incinerates them, precisely the proposal of the undertaking.
In this first test, two devices will demonstrate the capability of the novelty, one of which will generate a magnetic field, capture the second and launch it to desired points, explains Astroscale, a private orbital debris removal company based in Tokyo, Japan, to ahead of the polls.
Over the course of six months, the aforementioned process will be repeated, administered from the United Kingdom, attesting to the effectiveness of the approach at various levels of complexity. Although promising, the method was not designed to remove what is already floating around us and will only work with future satellites that contain compatible coupling plates.
It is a lot of garbage (and it comes even more)!
According to a recent survey published by NASA, at least 26,000 “stray” pieces are the size of baseballs, which, at more than 28,000 kilometers per hour, represent a real danger to anything they reach. In addition, more than 500,000 of them have the potential to detonate missions if they collide with protection systems, fuel tanks and spaceship cabins.
In any case, the most common population of debris is composed of elements the size of grains of sand, more than 100 million. Even tiny, they easily pierce the clothes of astronauts, increasing the risks of catastrophic consequences.
Therefore, however little can be done about what is already there, it is necessary to prevent the accumulation from becoming even greater, and other initiatives are dedicated to this task. All this fear is well founded. In 2019, for example, a satellite from India exploded and its pieces could damage the International Space Station.
In 2016, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency sent a 700-meter rope into space to try to slow down fragments and redirect space junk, and in 2018, a device called RemoveDebris successfully launched a network around a fictional satellite.
Finally, in 2025, the European Space Agency plans to send a self-destructive robot into orbit. Such efforts, which now count on the presence of ELSA-d, will become even more important as private ventures take over the skies, after all even they are not free to suffer and cause new accidents.