The geosynchronous orbit or GEO is located at a distance of 22,000 miles from the surface of the earth. In this orbit, many satellites revolve the earth; their total worth being over $300 billion dollars. However, many of these satellites are now regarded as retired because their life span ended, they failed or they became obsolete.
In 2011, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency or DARPA launched a program that was aimed at re-utilizing or recycling the working components of these retired satellites. The components could then be reused in other projects. However, all these aims may go through a setback now. According to a recent study, space debris must be removed before satellites can be deployed safely in the future.
Generally, the retired satellites are transferred into the GEO disposal obit. This has been the case with so many satellites and consequently, the orbit now contains a large number of debris and other manmade objects. As such, the risks of collisions have increased and if they are not dealt with soon enough, a cascade effect will be triggered.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA, stability can be achieved in the GEO disposal orbit, but for that at least five large objects must be removed on a yearly basis. The agency is now searching for companies that can help them in this mission and dispose of unutilized satellites. A program by the name of Active Debris Removal mission or e.Deorbit has been launched for this purpose. The program aims at targeting objects of greater mass first and then other debris will be dealt with.
Studies also claim the removal of space debris will not just help in safe deployment of new satellites, it will also aid in a cleaner environment on earth and outer space as well. The technologies that will be used are capable of this, but before they can be implemented, more research has to be carried out.
The researchers expect that robotic technology is a must for removing space debris. As of now, plans are being made to capture satellites in a material similar to a net. This will be attached to a rigid connection or a flexible tether. More research has to be made before the viability of this program can be determined and this will take time.
The good thing is that the process has already been initiated and will hopefully, be successful.