Bulky space debris removal means review and selection

Theoretical mechanics


Pikalov R. S.*, Yudintsev V. V.**

Samara National Research University named after Academician S.P. Korolev, 34, Moskovskoye shosse, Samara, 443086, Russia

*e-mail: pickalovrs@gmail.com
**e-mail: yudintsev@gmail.com


The near Earth space littering with space debris is one of the most important problems of modern astronautics. The sooner the active actions on removing the most dangerous bulky objects of space debris from the orbits start, the less risk that the situation in near Earth space would develop according Kessler catastrophic scenario.

The article presents the most known and well elaborated t thus far techniques of active near Earth space clearing from space debris. The considered techniques were separated in two groups, such as a group of passive techniques of removal from the orbit, and active techniques. Passive techniques of removal suppose application of various physical fields and media for the space debris deceleration. The active techniques implies creating an artificial impact on the space debris object on the part of a space tug. Active methods are separated by the type of the impact into contactless, implying remote force impact on the space debris object, and contact techniques with direct mechanic interaction between the tug and space debris.

Remote impact on the space debris object can be performed with a laser. Here, the material ablation effect under the action of laser radiation is employed to create a small reactive force. High-speed particles flow created by the ion thrusters of the space tug can also be used to create the force, affecting the debris. The flow of charged particles can be employed to transfer the charge to the space debris, and utilizing the electrostatic field formed around the it to push the debris away from the orbit. Non-contact methods are most safe for the space tug, but the acting forces level is low, which leads to a longer duration of the withdrawal process.

The techniques supposing direct mechanical interaction between the objects are most effective. The mechanical link is formed due to the capture of the space debris object by the tug. For capture either manipulators, or docking units, or net and harpoon can be employed. From our viewpoint, the most promising are capturing and transportation techniques with tether bond. These are most safe techniques for the tag. They allow control the impact level on the tug of the space debris object, especially if the space debris object rotates with significant angular velocity. The techniques forming rigid mechanical bond can be employed for capturing the objects, which do not possess significant kinetic moment.

Manipulators, special docking devices, nets, harpoons can be used to capture the space debris. In our opinion, the methods imply using of the tethered connection is most promising methods of active debris removal. These methods are most safe for the space tug, especially if the debris object rotates with high angular rate.


space debris, active debris removal, capturing, space tug, space tethered system


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