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ESA testing debris recovery system using satellites

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The European Space Agency (ESA) is testing a net recovery system to snare and de-orbit space debris in a safe and controlled manner.

ESA testing debris recovery system using satellites

The European Space Agency (ESA) is testing a net recovery system to snare and de-orbit space debris in a safe and controlled manner.

Currently, more than 12,000 objects exceeding 10 cm in size are cluttering the heavens and posing a risk to satellites and the International Space Station.

ESA, as well as other worldwide space agencies, want to clean up space.

To keep the problem from getting worse, agencies now require any satellite due to be placed in an orbit less than 2,000 km include de-orbiting capabilities in the design or a plan to push it into a safe graveyard orbit after its life cycle is over.

ESA tested the firing of a series of weighted nets at a mock satellite. The nets were fired from a compressed air ejector to determine which technology would work best in a grappling recovery effort.

ESA learned that thinner, hewed versions of the nets were better suited to grappling and snagging he contours of the satellite.

ESA is planning a deorbit mission in 2012 to test the feasibility of taking space debris out of orbit.

ESA is also considering harpooning, which would involve a robotic arm to grapple space debris and a satellite-mounted ion beam.

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