Image: Infrared and visible imaging of model satellite

September 14, 2017, European Space Agency
Infrared and visible imaging of model satellite
Credit: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Thermal infrared and visible light cameras mounted on a robot arm as it approaches a model of a dead satellite, as part of a demonstration of vision-based navigation systems intended for ESA's e.Deorbit active space debris removal mission.

ESA's Orbital Robotics Laboratory carried out the demonstration, to investigate the kind of guidance, navigation and control systems the will need to close in safely on a drifting satellite, as a prelude to capturing and deorbiting it.

In the orbital environment, light conditions are changing all the time, with rapid sunrises and sunsets alternating between complete darkness and dazzling sunlight, so thermal infrared offers a reliable backup imaging solution.

ESA's Clean Space initiative is developing the e.Deorbit mission for a projected launch in 2024, intended to take down a large item of ESA-owned debris. Clean Space is working with a variety of expert ESA teams to develop the high-performance technologies such an ambitious mission will require.

Explore further: Image: e.Deorbit's robotic arm

Related Stories

Image: e.Deorbit's robotic arm

January 18, 2017

ESA's proposed e.Deorbit mission, shown left, using a robotic arm to catch a derelict satellite – the baseline capture method for what would be the world's first active space debris removal mission, in 2024.

Setting a satellite to catch a satellite

July 8, 2016

The target is set: a large derelict satellite currently silently tumbling its way through low orbit. If all goes to plan, in 2023 it will vanish – and efforts against space debris will have made a giant leap forward.

ESA heading toward removing space debris

June 3, 2015

ESA's goal of removing a derelict satellite from orbit is picking up pace, as a mission design is assembled to be put before European ministers next year for approval.

Capturing derelict satellites adrift in orbit

February 24, 2014

Standard space dockings are difficult enough, but a future ESA mission plans to capture derelict satellites adrift in orbit. Part of an effort to control space debris, the shopping list of new technologies this ambitious ...

Catching dead satellites with nets

March 23, 2015

One of humanity's oldest technologies, the humble fishing net, may yet find a new role in space: bringing down dead satellites.

Recommended for you

Hunting molecules to find new planets

June 19, 2018

It's impossible to obtain direct images of exoplanets as they are masked by the high luminous intensity of their stars. However, astronomers led by UNIGE propose detecting molecules present in the exoplanet's atmosphere in ...

Exploring planetary plasma environments from your laptop

June 15, 2018

A new database of plasma simulations, combined with observational data and powerful visualisation tools, is providing planetary scientists with an unprecedented way to explore some of the Solar System's most interesting plasma ...

NASA encounters the perfect storm for science

June 14, 2018

One of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars has been spreading for the past week and a half. The storm has caused NASA's Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, but also offers a window for four other spacecraft ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.