J.-C. LIOU, M. MATNEY, A. VAVRIN, A. MANIS, AND D. GATES
In recent years, several commercial companies have proposed telecommunications constellations consisting of hundreds to thousands of 100-to-300-kg class spacecraft in low Earth orbit (LEO, the region below 2000-km altitude). If deployed, such large constellations (LCs) will dramatically change the landscape of satellite operations in LEO. Fig. 1 shows the current mass distribution in LEO. The top blue histogram shows the total and the three curves below show a breakdown by object type (spacecraft, rocket bodies, or other). The mass distribution is dominated by spacecraft and upper stages (i.e., rocket bodies). The yellow bars from 1100 km to 1300 km altitudes show the notional mass distribution from 8000 150 kg LC spacecraft or, equivalently, 4000 300 kg LC spacecraft. From the large amount of mass involved, it is clear that the deployment, operations, and frequent de-orbit and replenishment of the proposed LCs could significantly contribute to the existing orbital debris problem.
SINGAPORE, July 14, 2017 (ASTROSCALE PR) — ASTROSCALE PTE. LTD. (ASTROSCALE), a pioneering space company with a goal of mitigating space debris, completed a Series C round and raised $53 million in total to date. Private companies, ANA Holdings Inc. (ANA – parent company of ALL NIPPON AIRWAYS Co., Ltd.) and OSG Corporation, join recurring venture capital investors (Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, JAFCO Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital) alongside new financier aSTART Co., Ltd.
PARIS (ESA PR) — The Ministers in charge of space within the 22 ESA Member States and Canada gather typically every three years to set the Agency’s strategy and policies. During these ESA Council meetings at Ministerial Level, decisions are taken on the main direction for the coming years and on the additional budget for the future. Ministers agree to start new programmes or eventually to bring them to an end. This time, the ‘space ministers’ will meet on 1–2 December in Lucerne, Switzerland.
The meeting this year will define ESA’ objectives based on the vision of a United Space in Europe in the era of Space 4.0. (more…)
HOUSTON (NanoRacks PR) — Surrey Space Centre and NanoRacks are pleased to announce the RemoveDebris mission will be deployed into low-Earth orbit from the International Space Station (ISS) using the NanoRacks Kaber Satellite Deployment System (Kaber).
Since the beginning of the space era, a huge amount of orbital debris has progressively been building up; from old rocket casings to dead satellites, there are almost 7,000 tonnes of it around the Earth. Active debris removal missions have been suggested as a way of limiting and controlling future growth by actively sending up spacecraft to capture and remove the debris from space – to date this has never been fully achieved.
TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) established the emergency headquarters led by President Okumura and has been doing its utmost to understand the anomaly of the X-ray Astronomy Satellite ASTRO-H (“Hitomi”). We have made every effort to confirm the status of ASTRO-H and to regain its functions. Unfortunately, based on our rigorous technical investigation, we had to conclude as follows.
(1) Most of our analyses including simulations on the mechanisms of object separation, it is highly likely that both solar array paddles had broken off at their bases where they are vulnerable to rotation.
(2) Originally, we had some hopes to restore communication with ASTRO-H since we thought we received signals from ASTRO-H three times after object separation. However, we had to conclude that the received signals were not from ASTRO-H due to the differences in frequencies as a consequence of technological study.
New Electro-Optical Tracking Site to Complement Radar Tracking Systems
DENVER, Colo., and CANBERRA, Australia, Aug. 25, 2014 (Lockheed Martin/Electro Optic Systems PR) – Under a new strategic cooperation agreement, Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] and Electro Optic Systems Pty Ltd are developing a new space object tracking site in Western Australia that will paint a more detailed picture of space debris for both government and commercial customers.
It won’t quite be Armageddon, but the Russian space agency wants to develop the capability to destroy incoming asteroids that could wreak havoc on Earth.
The proposed Federal Space Program 2016-2025, which is being considered by the government, envisions the creation of a “means of ensuring the delivery and impact with objects approaching on a collision course with Earth in order to change their orbits to avoid collision with the planet,” Interfax cited the document as saying.
The 23 billion ruble ($634 million) proposal is not limited to asteroid defense, however. It also calls for the creation of orbital garbage trucks — spacecraft that would comb the trash-ridden void of low Earth orbit for fragments of old rockets, dead satellites, and other potentially harmful space junk.
The programs are part of Roscosmos’s proposed 10-year spending plan covering 2016-25 that government officials are now reviewing.
Russian officials have been particularly concerned about rogue asteroids since a meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk last year. The blast shattered windows and injured 1,500 people.
NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program (NIAC) has selected TUI to perform a Phase I effort to evaluate a concept for using a deployable net and a tether deployer to enable a small nano-satellite to capture and de-spin a large rotating asteroid. This WRANGLER system could reduce the complexity, risk, and cost of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). WRANGLER could also provide a means for affordable capture and disposal of space debris.
WRANGLER will accomplish these functions by combining two innovative technologies that have been developed by TUI: the GRASP deployable net capture device, and the SpinCASTER tether deployer/winch mechanism. Successful testing of both technologies in a microgravity environment has established these technology components at mid-TRL maturity.
The leverage offered by using a tether to extract angular momentum from a rotating space object enables a very small nano-satellite system to de-spin a very massive asteroid or large spacecraft. The WRANGLER system is suitable for an incremental development program that will validate the technology through an affordable test flight in which a nano-satellite launched on a rideshare opportunity would capture and de-spin the upper state used to launch it.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 12 proposals for study under Phase I of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program, which aims to turn science fiction into fact through pioneering technology development.
The selected proposals cover a wide range of imaginative concepts, including:
a submarine to explore the methane lakes of Titan;
using neutrinos to perform measurements for the icy moons of the outer planets; and,
a concept to safely capture a tumbling asteroid, space debris, and other applications.
PARIS (ESA PR) — Across a satellite’s working life, batteries keep the craft’s heart beating whenever it leaves sunlight. But after its mission ends, those same batteries may threaten catastrophe.
Space debris mitigation rules require the complete deactivation of electrical power sources aboard a satellite on retirement, in order to guard against explosive accidents that might produce fresh debris dangerous to other satellites.
PARIS (ESA PR) –– Standard space dockings are difficult enough, but a future ESA mission plans to capture derelict satellites adrift in orbit. Part of an effort to control space debris, the shopping list of new technologies this ambitious mission requires is set for discussion with industry experts.
ESA’s Clean Space initiative is studying the e.DeOrbit mission for removing debris, aiming to reduce the environmental impact of the space industry on Earth and space alike.
JAXA will test a 300-meter (1,000-foot) long electrodynamic tether in space next month that is designed to reel in and de-orbit space debris.
The idea is that one end of the strip will be attached to one of the thousands of dead satellites or bits of rocket that are jamming up space and endangering working equipment.
The electricity generated by the tether as it swings through the Earth’s magnetic field is expected to have a slowing effect on the space junk, which should, scientists say, pull it into a lower and lower orbit.
Eventually the detritus will enter the Earth’s atmosphere, burning up harmlessly long before it has chance to crash to the planet’s surface.
“The experiment is specifically designed to contribute to developing a space debris cleaning method,” said Masahiro Nohmi, associate professor at Kagawa University, who is working with JAXA on the project, told AFP.
The tether will be launched on Feb. 28 as a secondary payload aboard an H-2A rocket. The main goal is to extend the tether in orbit and observe the transfer of energy. Engineers will attempt to reel in space debris with future tethers.
PARIS (ESA PR) — When satellites reach the end of their working lives, they may pose a threat to other spacecraft as they continue to orbit in a dormant state for many decades. But now a new way to deorbit ageing satellites in a safe manner is nearing its first test in space.
In the future, satellites might carry a packaged ultra-lightweight ‘gossamer sail’ to open as they head towards retirement. The increased aerodynamic drag would pull the craft out of orbit to burn up in the high atmosphere, reducing the risk of catastrophic collisions and creating a sustainable space environment for future generations.