NASA group looks at Active Debris Removal

Chris Bergin reports on a NASA study that looks seriously at a program to de-orbit large debris objects: Project ADR: Removal of large orbital debris interests NASA – Study – – Jan.9.10

> A study into Active Debris Removal (ADR) has begun laying the foundations of a long term project to remove large pieces of orbital debris from space. The effort, which may grow into an international project, aims to eventually remove around five large pieces of debris – such as the numerous spent Upper Stages from Russian vehicles – per year.

There’s no particular design yet:

> As to the design of a spacecraft capable of sweeping up the large pieces of debris, no real details are forthcoming at this stage of the project.

However, some basic ground rules – and questions to be worked on – are noted, such as the need for the system “repeatability” – thus avoiding the need to launch the spacecraft for the removal of each piece of debris.

With limited funding over the next few years (decades?) at NASA for new initiatives like this, a highly cost-effective approach would involve a competition among multiple systems from commercial firms, perhaps in partnerships with NASA, to see what works best at the lowest price. I hope they avoid going with a program that locks onto one grand in-house design for an Ares Debris Remover on Steroids just to “[p]rovide new opportunities for Shuttle/Constellation workforce”.


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