The Swiss want to Clean Earth Orbits
While what goes up must come down is true, the saying says nothing about how long something can stay up. For objects orbiting the Earth, the longer they are up, the more likely it is to hit something, or someone. Researchers at the Swiss Space Center want to do something about this.
CleanSpaceOne is the proposed spacecraft, and its purpose will be to grab redundant satellites and hurl them into the atmosphere to end up as a shooting star. In no way is this going to be easy to do though. The researchers still have to decide how CleanSpaceOne will capture other spacecraft which were more than likely not designed to ever be captured. Once a satellite is captured though, the center of gravity of the two satellites will shift, which may cause them both to spin out of control, so a thruster configuration and automatic system to regain control needs to be developed. With the satellite captured, CleanSpaceOne will have to drag it down to the atmosphere, release it on a fatal trajectory, and then return to orbit. In case this doesn’t seem complicated enough already, these satellites can be moving as fast as 28000 Km/hr, so any mistake could cause the utter destruction of both vehicles, and leave behind a debris field more dangerous than the original satellite.
The researchers believe CleanSpaceOne will cost around $11 million and could be launched between 2015 and 2017. The first satellite to be taken down will be the SwissCube; Switzerland’s first space mission.