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Satellite launched to remove debris that could collide with spaceships

The long-standing problem with space junk is finally tackled by the Japanese company Astroscale. They have launched a special test mission that sends a pair of satellites into space to remove dangerous debris orbiting our planet.

The technology is called “ELSA-d ‘which means end-of-life services at the Astroscale demonstration. The rocket carrying the satellites took off on March 22 from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

Experts have long warned that the estimated 9,200 tonnes of space debris orbiting the planet pose a threat to the satellites we depend on for weather forecasts, flights and global communications.

The problem could get worse as private companies, including SpaceX, Google and OneWeb, prepare to launch a stream of new satellites into space.

What will happen during the test mission?

The mission launches two spacecraft in orbit ̵

1; a service satellite to collect debris, and a client satellite that acts as debris.

The service satellite is designed to safely remove debris from orbit using proximity technologies and a magnetic docking mechanism. The client satellite is a piece of replica waste that is equipped with a plate that enables anchoring.

During the summer, ELSA-d will repeatedly drop and dock with the client in a series of technical demonstrations, which show how it can find and dock with decommissioned satellites and other debris.

“What ELSA-d uses is a rigid robotic arm, which it locks magnetically, and you can do all six degrees of freedom. Then, up, down, left, right, backward and forward, and all rotations,” explains Chris Walker, chief operator of spacecraft.

“So, by mounting a prepared client with a very light magnetic docking plate, which allows ELSA-d to capture, attach and then control it.”

Demonstrations will include looking for the client, inspecting it and meeting it, and both tumbling and non-tumbling docking, something Walker and his colleagues call “dance mode.”

Click on the video above for the full story.

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