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Mission to Clean up Space Junk Around Earth Starts as ELSA-d Reaches Orbit

Representative photo

Representative photo

There is more than 8,000 metric tons of debris in the lower orbit made up of dead satellites, spent rocket parts, nuts and bolts and metal objects, and other objects sent to space.

If you thought the surface of our planet was the only place with a solid waste management problem, think again. Beyond the cloud lies a stretch of inner orbit, a border between Earth’s atmosphere and harsh outer space, which is littered with space junk. But fear not, as ELSA-d or End-of-Life Services by Astroscale has reached orbit and is ready to deep clean it like the most efficient and largest vacuum cleaner of the world.Launched on Monday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the satellite is finally in orbit, as confirmed by WPSU Radio.

The mission is a demonstration to test the idea on how to clean up the junk. Unlike your local beach or park crowded with plastic bottles and food packaging, the junk in space is quite different and heavier.

According to NPR, there is more than 8,000 metric tons of debris in the lower orbit made up of dead satellites, spent rocket parts, nuts and bolts and metal objects, and other objectssent to space. Between the vacuum of space and the gravity of earth, all of these keep floating around in the lower orbit, along with the functional satellites. Some of them fly at the speed of 18,000 miles per hour (28,968 kmph).

These junk materials threaten to hamper life on earth by interrupting communication services like weather forecasting, telecommunications and GPS systems- all of which have become essential for day-to-day life on Earth.If this test is successful, it could pave a way for more commercial space clean-up operations in the future, according to NBC.

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“This is an issue like plastics in the ocean. We've been working for eight years to turn a difficult problem into a business,” said John Auburn, Astroscale's managing director in the United Kingdom.The spacecraft will attempt to attach itself to the debris and then burn in the lower atmosphere, safely away from functioning satellites and Earth’s surface. There is a server satellite and client satellite. The client will act as the mock space junk which the server will catch and release. The test will continue for six months.

Keywords- ELSA-d, End-of-Life Services, Astroscale, space junk, space debris, space garbage by dead satellites, cleaning up lower orbit space junk

first published:March 22, 2021, 16:31 IST