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They propose a new solution to end space debris: attach 18 m2 trawl sails to satellites

Space debris is a growing problem as more and more satellites launch into space. To end this, different methods have been tried, such as capturing satellites, self-destruction or extending their useful life. Now researchers at Purdue University have another idea: dock towing sails so that they exorbitant as soon as possible.


Researchers have been working on this idea for years with the idea of ​​creating a solution for the increasingly likely collisions in orbit. Collisions that, as we have seen, can cause real damage. In the case of this proposal, it is a question of attaching to the satellites an 18 square meter sail that is deployed once the useful life of the satellite has ended. Once deployed, thanks to its resistance, it allows the satellite to move to more easily direct it to the atmosphere and burn once it passes through.

According to the researchers, the candle it is capable of being attached to any type of satellite and deployed to move it in space. They say it can move from satellites as small as CubeSat to larger satellites weighing up to 400 kilograms. The idea behind this is to speed up the process to deorbit the satellite. The Earth’s gravity pulls in on the satellite and causes it to eventually fall back, they say the sail allows this to be accelerated by increasing the surface area that interacts in the process.

Speeding up the process to deorbit a satellite

It will work? In principle, you must. Previous experiments like LightSail 2 have shown us that solar sails work by allowing navigation thanks to sunlight. According to the researchers, his candle will reduce the time from 25 to 15 days for a satellite orbiting 300 kilometers high.

Spencer Testlo

Speeding up the process is often essential since it allows to avoid potential disasters. Many times the process to deorbit a satellite can take months or even years. The trawl sail can reduce this time and is relatively easy to implement on each future satellite.

ESA aims to clean up space: 86 million euros have been spent to remove a single object from orbit

At the moment the towing sail is a concept. The first test was scheduled for last week. Unfortunately, the rocket that was supposed to take the prototype into space exploded during launch on September 2. We will have to wait more to see if this idea is really viable or not.

More information | University of Purdue