Twitter has asked Musk if you plan to do something to solve the problem of space debris and the CEO of SpaceX has not held his tongue. The self-proclaimed emperor of Mars claims that his Starship could go through space eating space debris through your upper door. As if it were a Pacman.
According to the latest count by the UN office in charge of space affairs (UNOOSA) there are 7,389 satellites orbiting the Earth right now. Without these satellites the society we live in today would turn into chaos. Today these devices are responsible for facilitating global communications throughout the planet, controlling transport by land, sea and air, monitoring crops or warning us of Filomenas and other meteorological phenomena.
These satellites are in constant danger of collision. According to UNOOSA, there are tens of millions of objects smaller than 10 centimeters orbiting the Earth at six times the speed of a bullet. These objects have been accumulating in space since Sputnik went into orbit in 1957. Unfortunately, not everything disintegrates when it enters the atmosphere, in space there are nuts, bolts, nuclear batteries, metal splinters or fuel balls. solidified.
ESA says that it is common for spacecraft pilots to have to deviate their course when entering an area full of space debris to avoid damage. The European agency affirms that in each mission it performs an average of two of these maneuvers per year. They are also not cheap at all. They require a team on the ground that spends hours calculating the risk and planning the maneuvers, they spend a fortune on extra fuel and they lose invaluable scientific data by having to turn off the instruments every time they have to do one of those maneuvers.
Yes, we can fly Starship around space & chomp up debris with the moving fairing door
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 3, 2021
For Musk’s ships this is also a big problem that can cost him a fortune. Apart from the ships that SpaceX launches from time to time into space, in Earth orbit hay 1,740 Starlink, a constellation of communications satellites that Musk has put into space with the intention of connecting the entire planet to the internet.
A recent study states that the probability of space debris impact with Starlink is 45%. This not only means that there is a very high risk of destroying your satellites, but that the pieces that are thrown at that speed could cause a chain reaction of unpredictable consequences for other objects flying in space.
Plans to End Space Junk
Musk is betting on using the fairing of the Starship, the shell-shaped structure in which the load is carried. In its standard configuration, this structure measures 9 meters in diameter and it has an internal volume of 1,100 m3, providing the largest volume of cargo on a spacecraft ever.
With the right speed and entry angle, the Starship it could trap debris in the cargo compartment. The large volume of that compartment would allow him to store space debris eight times the size of a Crew Dragon.
The thing about Musk seems like an idea that has occurred to a flying pen while looking at Twitter, although with this man you never know and there are still more serious plans underway. Fortunately there are other agencies and companies that are already considering how to get rid of so much space junk.
This is how a ship that enters the atmosphere disintegrates
The Japanese company Astroscale wants to place the satellites some mechanical anchors that allow future space sweepers to catch them more easily. The THAT, He also wants to change the design of the satellites to make the materials that compose them disintegrate completely when they enter our atmosphere and there is no trace of their existence.
Apart from this, ESA has partnered with the Swiss company ClearSpace to put an end to the garbage we already have. For that he has designed a ship equipped with mechanical tentacles that catches the objects and then takes them out of their orbit so that they fall to Earth and are destroyed on reentry. The estimate is that this mission is ready by 2025.
This is how the RemoveDEBRIS project networks work
The project RemoveDEBRIS It is designed to catch those millions of small objects that orbit around us at full speed. It is a network system that collects these tiny objects that usually travel in constellations. The system works, it was tested successfully in 2018, but it needs more funding to get up and running.
A less technological and more political solution would be that of the economist Matthew Burgess. His proposal to bring order to the chaos we have up there is to apply an annual fee for the use of the orbit. Burgess He estimates that the price would have to be up to 235,000 per satellite per year, this would transfer the responsibility of keeping the space clean to the operators and would generate an increase in the value of the satellites.