Elon Musk Tweets Versions Of Clarke's Operation Cleanup

Elon Musk has been reading old science fiction novels again. This time, he's trying Operation Cleanup, or at least the part where space close to the Earth gets cleaned up.

SF great Arthur C. Clarke proposed the idea of cleaning up nearby space in his 1978 novel The Fountains of Paradise; he called it "".


(Elon Musk's RemoveDEBRIS program)

Another intriguing experiment is a small satellite provided by the Surrey Space Center known as RemoveDEBRIS that will be deployed through an airlock in the Japanese Kibo module and released into space by the laboratory's Japanese robot arm.

The idea is to test technologies that could one day be used to snag and de-orbit space junk.

In one test, a small cubesat will be released from the RemoveDebris satellite, which then will try to target and snare it with a net that could then be used to pull it out of orbit.

"The idea is that the net, as a way to capture debris, is a very flexible option because even if the debris is spinning, or has got an irregular shape, to capture it with a net is relatively low-risk compared to, for example, going with a robotic arm," said Guglielmo Aglietti, RemoveDEBRIS principal investigator, and director of the Surrey Space Center.

In another test, a harpoon-like spear will be fired at a plate to test another technique that could be used to capture a wayward piece of debris.

"The harpoon is maybe simpler, just shooting a harpoon," Aglietti told Spaceflight Now. "But then one might think that maybe it's a bit more risky because you have to hit your debris in a place that is suitable to be captured by the harpoon. Clearly, you have to avoid any fuel tanks."

Finally, the RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft will deploy a so-called "drag brake," an inflatable structure that will increase atmospheric drag and help ensure a speedy descent. Similar brakes could be installed on future spacecraft to help them drop out of orbit at the end of their lives.

I'm pretty sure I've covered many of these approaches; regular readers know, but here are some links you might have missed:

  - Terminator Tether - EDT Solution To Space Debris Update
  - NanoTerminator Prevents Annoying Space Debris Build-Up
  - Debris Cloud From Chinese ASAT A Menace To Space Lanes
  - Space Debris Cleanup Suggestions Ignored
  - Laser Thruster 'Tractor Beams' For Space Junk
  - Space Junk-Eating Pod-Craft
  - CleanSpace One Goal: De-Orbit Space Debris
  - Space Debris Cleanup - Use Harpoons Or Gas Clouds?
  - Could Ground-Based Lasers De-Orbit Space Junk?
  - Australians To Zap Space Junk Ala Arthur C. Clarke
  - Tracking Spinning Space Junk
  - Zap Space Debris With Telescope Laser On ISS
  - New Laser Space Debris Clearing More Subtle Than Clarke's
  - Nifty New SDS Space Debris Sensor For ISS

Via CBS News.

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