Russian Space Systems (RSS) has developed a space system capable of taking hold of decommissioned satellites in the Earth’s orbit to grind and process them into fuel, Project Developer and RSS Research Engineer Marina Barkova told TASS on Wednesday.
The space debris disposal system will be able to capture "decommissioned small satellites in low orbits (from 500 to 700 km)," the engineer said.
"The system consists of a trap that includes a net in the form of a cupola and a cone and a processing device. When a satellite gets into the trap, it undergoes the stage of its processing through a grinder and a special mill," she specified.
A satellite thus chopped inside the system will then be mixed with oxygen and hydrogen and turned into fuel, the project head said.
This fuel will be used in the system’s engines for maneuvers and a fly-over to the next satellite that has used up its service life. An onboard computer and the robotized devices of controlling the space chopper will get power from solar panels.
Now the project is expected to be patented: the engineers filed an application for the space grinder’s internal layout in 2018 and for its external look in 2019. In Barkova’s estimate, the project of creating the space mill is estimated at about 7.5 billion rubles ($117 million).
According to NASA’s data, there are over 2,200 active and more than 5,000 decommissioned satellites in orbit today as well as over 14,000 fragments of space debris. Overall, almost 20,000 objects have been registered in the Earth’s orbit to date.