Recently, it has been reported that the amounts of debris floating around in Earth’s orbit have become so high that, in the coming years, future space missions may become too dangerous to fly for risk of colliding with cosmic litter traveling at over 17,500mph. Wile there are no government plans currently in place to clean up space, the private sector is developing some ideas on how to go about making sure that there is enough space in space to allow for future flights.
One idea on the drawing board: cosmic nets.
Star Research and Technology Inc. has plans to launch several spacecraft called ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminators (EDDEs) that will use a surprisingly simple method in order to fix a highly-complex problem that has been over a half century in the making: nets. According to Star president Jerome Pearson, each EDDE would be powered by solar and magnetic energy and would launch nets into space in order to capture pieces of orbital debris., which would then be dragged ‘out of the way,’ specifically to where was not addressed.
Speaking on what the future holds, Pearson has made a bold claim: namely that his EDDEs can clean up all the debris from low-Earth orbit in a dozen years.
Considering the current state of space, that may be a tall order.
Right now, there are hundreds of operational satellites in orbit, and thousands of dead ones. In addition to the satellites, there are all kinds of other junk ranging from huge, jettisoned rocket boosters to tiny pieces of daily garbage from shuttle missions. All told, there are thousands of objects floating around earth at 17,500mph, with even a tiny one being capable of destroying a spacecraft at such speeds.
To make the problem worse, more debris enters space with every mission which could, in time, make spaceflight too dangerous in terms of human and material risks to be worthwhile, which is very bad considering that modern life on earth has so much to do with space (think cell phones, satellite TV, and GPS to name just a few).
In the end, only time will tell whether Pearson’s grand vision makes it off the ground or not.