Huge spear is ‘answer for space garbage’. Airbus is trying a major spear to catch maverick or excess satellites and haul them out of the sky.
The 1m-long shot would be appended, through a solid tie, to a pursuit shuttle.
Once the objective was caught and under control, the pursuit vehicle would then drag its prey down into the climate to consume to annihilation.
Airbus has been taking a shot at the idea for various years now, growing ever greater frameworks.
It is a reaction to the developing issue of orbital garbage – old bits of equipment that keep on circling the globe and which now represent an impact risk to operational satellites.
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Something in the region of 20,000 items of 10cm or larger are currently being tracked.
The latest Airbus harpoon is being designed with the capability to capture one of the biggest rogue items of the lot – Europe’s defunct Envisat Earth observation platform.
This 8-tonne behemoth died suddenly in orbit in 2012. “Envisat is the outlier,” explained advanced project engineer Alastair Wayman.
“If we can design a harpoon that can cope with Envisat, then it should be able to cope with all other types of spacecraft including the many rocket upper-stages that remain in orbit.”
The testing at the aerospace company’s facility in Stevenage, UK, involves firing the harpoon, using compressed air, into a panel that is representative of the kinds of material used to build satellite structures.
Typically, this takes the form of 3cm-thick, composite honeycomb panels that incorporate a lot of aluminium.
“The harpoon goes through these panels like a hot knife through butter,” said Mr Wayman.
“Once the tip is inside, it has a set of barbs that open up and stop the harpoon from coming back out. We’d then de-tumble the satellite with a tether on the other end.”
This is where harpoons should come into their own, over other methods of capture such as nets and robotic arms. A harpoon is relatively simple. You line up the target and shoot.
“Many of these targets will be tumbling and if you were to use a robotic arm, say, that involves a lot of quite complex motions to follow your target,” Mr Wayman explained.
“Whereas, with the harpoon, all you have to do is sit a distance away, wait for the target to rotate underneath you, and at the right moment fire your harpoon. And because it’s a really quick event, it takes out a lot of the complexity.”
Regardless you need to bring the tumbling satellite under control utilizing thrusters on the pursuit vehicle – yet PC reenactments demonstrate this ought to be conceivable.
The European Space Agency, which is in charge of Envisat, is thinking about all alternatives right now, and the showing missions that fly in the following couple of years will more likely than not go for simpler, more agreeable targets first. Without a doubt, a smaller than normal rendition of the Airbus spear is set to dispatch one month from now on a mission called RemoveDebris.
This demonstrator satellite, created at the Surrey Space Center, will convey its own particular bit of garbage which it will discharge and afterward endeavor to recover. It will trial a net, however will play out a spear test also to facilitate information about how such frameworks will act in the weightless condition of room.
For the enormous spear back in Stevenage, it is currently prepared to move to its next advancement arrange. This will include terminating the shot over a separation of 25m, the kind of partition over which the genuine flight model would need to work.
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