Mission will test new technology for removing satellites from orbit

Space junk orbiting the earth is becoming a more significant problem as more satellites are placed into orbit. Popular orbits are becoming very crowded, and many of the spacecraft orbiting there are decommissioned and nonfunctional. However, it's impossible to get the satellites out of orbit with current technology in most cases.A company called Astroscale is set to operate a demonstration mission to test new technology it is developed to clean up space debris. The mission was set to launch in the early hours of the morning yesterday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The demo mission was pushed into orbit using a Soyuz 2 rocket. The payload includes a 175 kilograms spacecraft with the satellite attached. The satellite itself weighs 17 kilograms, and once in orbit, it will separate from the spacecraft.

Over the next several months, the spacecraft will track the satellite, and Astroscale will test its ability to grab the satellite and bring it toward Earth's atmosphere, where it will burn up on reentry. The spacecraft will be tested in a series of different maneuvers, with the mission expected to end in September or October 2021.

The company intends to test the spacecraft's ability to catch and dock with the satellite as it tumbles through space at velocities of up to 17,500 miles per hour. The tests rely on magnetic docking plates that will latch onto the satellite. Astroscale hopes that all satellites built in the future will be fitted with those docking plates so they can be removed from orbit at the end of their lifespan.

The technology the company is testing is targeting satellites that haven't yet launched. Unfortunately, there's no solution for derelict satellites that are already in orbit. Companies around the world are currently working on solutions to the ever-increasing number of derelict satellites in space.