One of the biggest dangers facing current; and future, space exploration is the large amount of debris that is littered in orbit around the Earth. The most recent occurrence that illustrates this danger is when the astronauts at the International Space Station had to evacuate to their rescue crafts because it was threatened by some space debris coming too close to the station.
Scientists have been trying for years to come up with ways to clean up this debris and today a new one has been suggested in a paper by Marco Castronuovo, an aerospace engineer at Agenzia Spaziale Italiana.
The idea is to have a double armed satellite that would grab the debris with one arm and then stick a solid propellant rocket to it with the other arm. Once launched the debris would head into the EArth’s atmosphere where, it is supposed, it would burn up on re-entry.
Castronuovo has reasonable conservative targets in mind, only envisaging the project removing 35 objects over a seven year period. Those selected would be the biggest threat to future missions, however, being a pick of the 41 largest in the sun-synchronous orbital region near the Earth. Should they collide, it’s theorized, they could scatter into dense clouds of micro-debris that would be incredibly difficult to dissipate, and present a significant barrier to active spacecraft.