Creating The Orbital Equivalent Of A Street Sweeper

Two Texas A&M University engineers say their satellite would save fuel costs by using the momentum created by removing one piece of junk to propel itself to the next piece.

What's the Latest Development?


Texas A&M University engineers Danielle Mortari and Jonathan Missel have come up with a satellite design that cleans up orbiting space debris by capturing pieces and then slinging them into Earth's atmosphere, where they burn up upon reentry. The TAMU Space Sweeper with Sling-Sat (4S) would be propelled by the momentum generated by both these actions, lowering fuel use and extending its operational life. The team says they plan to spend this year optimizing their design.

What's the Big Idea?

The threat posed to satellites and spacecraft by the growing cloud of fast-moving debris is well known, but until now scientists haven't been able to create solutions that are workable, cost-efficient, and use existing technology. One of the primary challenges in terms of cost has been the relative distance between pieces, which would require a decluttering craft to burn a lot of fuel in order to travel between them. Another challenge involves the ability to distinguish between legitimate junk and working equipment, which a passive capture system can't do, at least not currently. Missel says the 4S makes a cleanup mission practical, which is important since "[w]e are at a point where the problem needs to be solved...not just avoided."

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at Space.com

Why Henry David Thoreau was drawn to yoga

The famed author headed to the pond thanks to Indian philosophy.

Image: Public Domain / Shutterstock / Big Think
Personal Growth
  • The famed author was heavily influenced by Indian literature, informing his decision to self-exile on Walden Pond.
  • He was introduced to these texts by his good friend's father, William Emerson.
  • Yoga philosophy was in America a century before any physical practices were introduced.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less
Photo: Shutterstock / Big Think
Personal Growth
    • A recent study from the Department of Health and Human Services found that 80 percent of Americans don't exercise enough.
    • Small breaks from work add up, causing experts to recommend short doses of movement rather than waiting to do longer workouts.
    • Rethinking what exercise is can help you frame how you move throughout your day.
    Keep reading Show less