Low-Earth orbit is a narrow band of space located in the vicinity of the Earth’s surface. And, unfortunately, it is a junkyard for space debris, inundated with defunct satellites and remnants of rockets. According to the European Space Agency, there is approximately 9,200 tonnes of space debris!
A new mission called ELSA-d, however, has been launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to clean up this debris. Remarkably, this is the first commercial mission to show a space debris removal system.
ELSA-d (End-of-Life Services – demonstration) mission will test core technologies to capture an object in low-Earth orbit and move it to a lower altitude, where it will eventually burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere of the Earth. If successful, this mission can prove to be a landmark, promoting more sustainable space operations.
ELSA-d consists of two spacecraft: a servicer satellite (~175kg) and a client satellite (~17kg), launched stacked together.
The mission is being performed by Tokyo-based company Astroscale, which is “the first private company with a vision to secure the safe and sustainable development of space for the benefit of future generations.”
The task of cleaning up space debris is important to ensure that new satellites can be operated safely without colliding with other old ones.
“This is an issue like plastics in the ocean,” said John Auburn, Astroscale’s managing director in the United Kingdom. “We’ve been working for eight years to turn a difficult problem into a business.”
“Now is the time to take the threat of debris seriously by committing to debris removal programs and preparing satellites for future removal at their end of life,” said Auburn.
“Avoiding catastrophic collisions will help to protect the space ecosystem and ensure all orbits can continue to thrive sustainably for generations to come.”
Isn’t this a wonderful initiative? Let us know what you think about this debris removal initiative in the comments section below.0