A UK -LED mission to show how space debris can be cleared has blasted off.
According to the European Space Agency, there is approximately 9,200 tonnes of human space debris littering the solar system.
That includes 34,000 objects greater than 10cm and 128 million objects between 1mm and 1cm long.
Much of that mess has come from more than 560 break-ups, explosions and crashes on human missions into the cosmos.
While rocket launches have placed about 10,680 satellites in Earth’s orbit since 1957, around 6,250 of these are still in space, but only 3,700 are still functioning.
A collision with space debris could have a big impact on satellite services people rely on every day, including mobile phones and online banking.
Now, the world’s first mission of its kind to clean up the junk is being led by Satellite Applications Catapult (SAC) at Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire.
This is part of Harwell Space Cluster – ‘Europe’s most concentrated group of space organisations’ – and is located on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus near Didcot.
On Monday, two spacecraft launched from Kazakhstan on a Soyuz rocket: a ‘servicer satellite’, which will collect the debris, and a ‘client satellite’ which, on this test run, will play the part of a bit of ‘space debris’.
The lift-off of the rocket carrying the satellite was posted to Twitter by Astroscale on Monday and many people congratulated those behind the mission to clean up the solar system.
The so-called ‘end-of-life services’ by Astroscale demonstration (ELSA-d) will be operated from the In-Orbit Servicing Control Centre – National Facility at the SAC at Harwell Campus.
It is expected to start major demonstrations in around June or July.
The ‘servicer satellite’ has been developed to safely remove debris from orbit, equipped with ‘proximity rendezvous technologies’ and a ‘magnetic docking mechanism’.
This means the space craft will be able to detect bits of cosmic rubbish floating around it, then pull them in using its magnetic collecting device.
The client satellite is a piece of replica debris fitted with a plate that enables the docking.
During the mission, the servicer will repeatedly release and dock with the client in a series of technical demonstrations, indicating the capability to find and dock with defunct satellites and other debris.
Demonstrations include looking for the client, inspecting it and meeting up with it, and both tumbling and non-tumbling docking.
ELSA-d is the world’s first commercial demonstration debris removal mission.
Speaking ahead of the launch, UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “The removal of hazardous space debris is not only environmentally important but is also a huge commercial opportunity for the UK, with companies like Astroscale leading the way in demonstrating how we can make space safer for everyone.”
This Article firstly Publish on www.oxfordmail.co.uk