ESA concept for active debris deorbit mission

Cleaning space

23 April 2013

Artist’s concept showing how a defunct satellite could be grappled for a controlled reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, where it would burn up and be destroyed harmlessly.

This is one of several concepts for clearing dead satellites from orbit being studied by space agencies and industry across Europe.

Hundreds of experts from across the globe are meeting at Europe’s largest-ever debris forum this week to share research findings and discuss potential solutions.

Satellite operators worldwide, including those flying telecom, weather, navigation, broadcast and climate-monitoring missions, are focusing their efforts on controlling space debris.

Scientists estimate the level of space debris orbiting Earth to be around 29 000 objects larger than 10 cm, 670 000 pieces larger than 1 cm and more than 170 million above 1 mm – and any one of these could seriously damage a spacecraft.

Cleaning space above our atmosphere is a strategic goal for ESA.

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