Elsa-d is the world’s first commercial demonstration mission for a space debris removal system. The launch will take place this Saturday at 6:00 a.m. (Lisbon time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
This mission was launched by the Japanese and British company Astroscale and is commanded by the National Unit of the Orbit Control and Maintenance Center (IOCC) near Oxford in the UK. Part of this mission is a small satellite that is supposed to search for satellites that are no longer needed. Then they are “drawn” into the earth’s atmosphere, where these satellites ignite.
Why remove those satellites that are already considered garbage? It’s about spatial sustainability and ensuring that new satellites can be launched without the risk of collision, as explained in an article in the UK newspaper The Guardian.
“We are entering an era of satellite constellations and some of them may not be able to orbit – which would be a serious problem,” Astroscale UK director general John Auburn told the BBC website. “If they fail at low altitude, they will return on their own, but if satellites fail at 1200-1300 kilometers altitude, they will stay there for centuries and run the risk of breaking, colliding with other objects and improving the situation of much worse space debris. “
The European Space Agency estimates 3,600 satellites in orbit and the United States Space Surveillance Network has tracked more than 28,000 pieces of space debris. It is also planned to launch more than 10,000 satellites over the next decade.