The International Space Station (ISS), must change its orbit once a month to avoid space debris collisions. These are artificial satellites which are no longer functional and a variety of fragments of material, the result of collisions and explosions. They threaten both space missions as well as the satellites used for telecommunications and planet observation.
Crew members of the ISS were well aware of this risk and had to flee to escape ships in November to avoid colliding with the debris of a Russian missile that struck a satellite in orbit. This was a non-operational satellite, launched by Russia in 1982. These fragments are added to the approximately 35,000 objects that have been created by humans and larger than 10 cms. The orbits of the Earth currently contain 28,000, which are monitored daily for collision avoidance. The number of the smallest objects, which cannot easily be detected by radar, is more than one million.
A European consortium led by Gonzalo Sanchez Arriga, Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Carlos III University of Madrid is working to develop a system that allows satellites to descend without fuel until they re-enter Earth's atmosphere. This will stop the problem of space debris. E.T. was born. This project was christened E.T. It will serve as an anchor that will allow him to make his final trip without being destroyed.
Sanchez Arriaga explains that Lorentz braking, a force known for lowering the orbit's height until it causes reentry into the atmosphere. This is followed by its elimination within a few months. To avoid creating more space debris, satellites should reserve 15% of their fuel for descent. We would love all future satellites with our deorbiting equipment. The UC3M expert says that they are looking into the possibility of creating a satellite capable of capturing different objects and then de-orbiting them with our equipment.
At the end of this year, the ET system PACK will have its first laboratory version. Two more will need to wait until the first demonstration flight. Together with UC3M and the University of Padua, the E.T.PACK Team, funded by the State Research Agency and the Community of Madrid, is formed by the University of Padua, the Technical University of Dresden, and IKTS Institute in Germany. "The problem space debris is very similar in nature to the problem of climate change. It cannot be solved without international cooperation," Sanchez Arriaga says.