Russia wants to build 'Sweeper' to clean up space debris

Nov 30, 2010
Trackable objects in Low Earth Orbit. Image Credit: ESA

Russia is looking to build a $2 billion orbital "pod" that would sweep up satellite debris from space around the Earth. According to a post on the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos' Facebook site, (which seems to confirm an earlier article by the Interfax news agency) the cleaning satellite would work on nuclear power and be operational for about 15 years. The Russian rocket company, Energia proposes that they would complete the cleaning satellite assembly by 2020 and test the device no later than in 2023.

“The corporation promises to clean up the space in 10 years by collecting about 600 defunct satellites on the same geosynchronous orbit and sinking them into the oceans subsequently,” Victor Sinyavsky from the company was quoted as saying.

Sinyavsky said Energia was also in the process of designing a space interceptor that would to destroy dangerous space objects heading towards the .

No word on exactly how the space debris cleaner would work, of how it would push dead satellites and other debris into a decaying orbit so that objects would burn up in the atmosphere, or if it might somehow gather up or “vacuum” debris. But at least someone is thinking about and asteroid deflection and putting more than just a few rubles (60 billion of ‘em) towards these concepts.

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User comments : 16

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solar2030
4.7 / 5 (3) Nov 30, 2010
clear way for space elevator in 2030
Pyle
5 / 5 (2) Nov 30, 2010
One person's trash is another's treasure. Or maybe in this case, spy satellite...
KwasniczJ
1.2 / 5 (18) Nov 30, 2010
Or they're just looking for precedent of legal placement of nuclear device at the orbit.

http://billionyea...can.html

http://en.wikiped...e_Treaty

They failed to convince scientists about its usefulness - so now they're trying it again...

http://www.space....his.html
T3chWarrior
3 / 5 (2) Nov 30, 2010
good idea, bad power source
Nik_2213
4 / 5 (2) Nov 30, 2010
Solar panels would be degraded or shadowed, or just broken during grappling attempts...

I thought they were proposing 'SplatNiks', aerogel blobs intended to soak up the small stuff...
baudrunner
5 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2010
By the time that this project development is in full swing, they will no doubt re-asses their intention of destroying those expensive toys in favour of salvaging them. It would be cheaper to just gather them all into one heap - a space junk yard - for future consideration.
GDM
5 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2010
baudrunner is correct. This stuff is salvagable and quite valuable, not only for the electronics, but for the refined materials available. Remember, aluminum can be used as rocket fuel. Not only is the Russian method flawed, but "we" can do in less time and less cost. See http://www.star-t...121.html
iknow
5 / 5 (2) Dec 01, 2010
I've been waiting on something like this from Russians. They got a ton of cash sitting in the bank and they don't owe anyone.

While US has to cancel space missions cus they are broke, Ruskis and later China are going full on.
El_Nose
5 / 5 (2) Dec 01, 2010
I think its a great idea ... instead of spending more and more money on monitoring the trash -- collect it and either scuttle it or recycle it -- either way its a win / win for space exploration... and lets face is the USA and the USSR are the major players who put the trash there in the first place ... and China blew some of the trash into smaller pieces of course.

It is about time someone started thinking about cleaning up the trash... we should back this effort as we only stand to gain from it... you know while most of the windows for luanch dates are about timing the rotation of the earth to a rendevous point, they are also impacted by how much debris they are expected to have to fly close to. this helps the whole world. and the commercial space industry.
Justsayin
5 / 5 (2) Dec 02, 2010
Don't support Russian state capitalism, instead support the individual and private space firms who are working on this technology now without nuclear engines through VASIMIR.

http://en.wikiped...a_Rocket

Nuclear could be used for high speed Vasimir missions to Mars but not for satellite retrieval.

In space resource recovery. http://www.adastr...missions
mdr
4 / 5 (2) Dec 04, 2010
I think it's a great idea.

I wonder if there will be political opposition from the idea of it being able to "accidentally" sweep up operational US satellites... Hopefully not.

It really should get done, and the US should contribute to a cooperative effort.
mdr
3 / 5 (1) Dec 04, 2010
Space probes have been nuclear powered, so it's not like it's a new concept. The power source is going to need to be sufficient for numerous maneuvers just to approach these 600+ derelict satellites, and then to provide the inertia to direct the debris into a degrading orbit, all in addition to keeping the satellite's electronics operating. Normal satellites just have to have enough power for normal operations and occasional minor corrective burns, so they are not nearly the relative power hog this would be.

A small nuclear reactor isn't unreasonable as a power source capable of continuous output over an extended period without being prohibitively massive for launch and the demanding maneuvers. The radiation released should it break down and "crash" with a full tank, which would then burn up in the atmosphere, would be insignificant compared to normal solar radiation bombarding the atmosphere continuously. We're talking about a few grams; not enough to power a city, or a weapon.
KwasniczJ
2 / 5 (2) Dec 04, 2010
A small nuclear reactor isn't nuclear battery - it just requires some minimal mass of fissinable material for keep nuclear reaction is sustainable and STABLE (i.e. safe) regime. And this mass is not "few grams", as everyone, who understands nuclear technology knows quite well. It's always larger, then the mass required for unmoderated nuclear reaction, i.e. nuclear explosion.

In addition, the radiation and toxicity of fissionable material is incomparable to normal solar radiation. Such radiation cannot be swallowed or inhalled and it cannot accumulate in human organism and/or biosphere.
Skeptic_Heretic
4 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2010
A small nuclear reactor isn't nuclear battery - it just requires some minimal mass of fissinable material for keep nuclear reaction is sustainable and STABLE (i.e. safe) regime. And this mass is not "few grams", as everyone, who understands nuclear technology knows quite well. It's always larger, then the mass required for unmoderated nuclear reaction, i.e. nuclear explosion.

Simple solution. Forced Cerium moderation. Almost impossible to build a functional nuclear weapon regardless of the material content due to contamination. No affect to power output.
In addition, the radiation and toxicity of fissionable material is incomparable to normal solar radiation. Such radiation cannot be swallowed or inhalled and it cannot accumulate in human organism and/or biosphere.
Most people accumulate a lot of solar radiation. And they call it tanning.

If you're referring to the ionizing radiation, that would be rather easily contained.
beelize54
1 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2010
. Almost impossible to build a functional nuclear weapon regardless of the material content due to contamination
You didn't understood the problem - the risk arises from high number of satellite collisions and spreading of their content into atmosphere. Do you want to experience Chernobyl at the planetary scale?
Skeptic_Heretic
4 / 5 (1) Dec 19, 2010
. Almost impossible to build a functional nuclear weapon regardless of the material content due to contamination
You didn't understood the problem - the risk arises from high number of satellite collisions and spreading of their content into atmosphere. Do you want to experience Chernobyl at the planetary scale?

What are you talking about?