Glue-Filled Satellites Could Eliminate Earth's Increasing Space Debris Problems

Tuesday, 16 June 2015 - 12:14PM
Technology
Earth
Tuesday, 16 June 2015 - 12:14PM
Glue-Filled Satellites Could Eliminate Earth's Increasing Space Debris Problems
If you've seen "Gravity," you have some idea what serious damage a large piece of space debris could do. But according to real-world experts, even the tiniest speck could elicit massive problems when orbiting at high speed; during the Space Shuttle program, NASA reported that several shuttle windows had to be replaced because of damage caused by debris as insignificant as flecks of paint. If a couple of flecks could wreak that much havoc, think of the potential effect of the 500,000 pieces - some 20,000 of those larger than a softball, currently circling the Earth. 

It's no surprise that scientists have spent years searching for a solution to this space debris problem, but now, the search might finally be over. The Singapore based Astroscale company thinks it has found the answer - glue. But this isn't the stuff you'd see in a Kindergarten classroom, this is a secret substance which remains adhesive even in space, where traditional binders break down. The company plans to use a two-part satellite, made of a carrier dubbed "Mother" and a catcher named "Boy" to send the fixatives into space. The Boy is kept inside the Mother until the Mother determines exactly the right moment to deploy it's sticky charge. Once the Boy has secured the debris in its sticky grasp, it uses thrusters to slow itself down, sending both debris and satellite to burn up in Earth's atmosphere.



The prototype ADRAS-1 mission is scheduled for launch in 2017, when it will be hoped that Boy and Mother can have a great deal more success than the disastrous 2007 Chinese attempt to remove a satellite from orbit with a missile, which actually ended up creating no fewer than 3,000 extra pieces of space debris. 

Luckily, this plan seems more well thought out, the Boy would burn with the debris, reducing both to nothing but some ash. Yasu Yamazaki, Astroscale's marketing manager, is still wary, however. he explains "It's simple, but mechanically, if something is complicated, there's lots of room for mistakes, and we don't want mistakes in a space environment."
Science
Space
Technology
Earth

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