Some ideas should live forever in the world of science fiction. Others are a little less. This may be the case with the tractor beam. The researchers plan to use this newly developed technology Star Trek To clear the space of our garbage.
Tractor beams? If you’re a sci-fi fan, you need to know. Otherwise, as its name suggests, a tractor beam, in these worlds, know that a beam is used to handle all kinds of objects, visible or distant. Including spaceships to bring home, threatening asteroids or… damaged ships.
This is precisely what is used in our own world University of Colorado researchers (United States) I hope to be able to do that soon. According to NASA, there are currently 23,000 pieces of space debris at least the size of a tennis ball orbiting our Earth. A growing number in the coming years. Especially since each collision – an event that is statistically more and more likely – creates its own new batch of debris. Debris that eventually falls back to our Earth. It happened in 2009. Nearly 2,000 fragments of two satellites collided hundreds of kilometers from Siberia.
“Like in Star Trek, but less powerful“
To solve the problem, researchers have ambitions to send some sort of space debris into orbit responsible for cleanup. Garbage moving machines “Thanks to the tractor beam you see in Star Trek, but not as powerful”Hanspeter Schaub, an aerospace engineering researcher at the University of Colorado, explains contacted. All this, while avoiding touching the garbage. “Because it is always more dangerous because of their quick and often unpredictable movements”says Kayleigh Champion, Hanspeter Schaub’s doctoral student.
Experiments in laboratory space
To test their technology, the researchers recreated a spot in a cylinder placed in their laboratory. A vacuum chamber they named “Eclipse”. Electrostatic Charging Laboratory for Interactions between Plasma and Spacecraft, understand the electrostatic charge lab for interactions between plasma and spacecraft. This gives us a hint of the principle they hope to mobilize: electrostatic attraction. In fact, when we rub the balloon on our children’s hair, the same force makes their hair stand up.
On paper, a space dump truck-type craft could send an electron beam at debris 15 to 25 meters away, inducing a negative current on the side of said debris and a positive charge on the side of the gear. Because opposites attract… Computer simulations and the team’s first tests suggest that an electrostatic tug could move a multi-ton satellite more than 300 kilometers this way. It will take him 2 to 3 months.
If enough funding is provided, the researchers promise that such debris could be sent into space within 5 or 10 years. Each engine aims to move dozens of pieces of space debris. Perhaps researchers can adapt their technology to a more sophisticated environment. The space between our Earth and the Moon is stirred by the solar wind. Thus participating in their own way of space conquest…