Our November 15 meeting will be at our usual location at the Humanist Center in Mesa. The program will feature Eric Nichols, an engineer at Orbital Sciences, who will talk about the problem of orbital debris.
Fifty years of space launch activity has created a space debris problem. The concept of “Space is a big place” is no longer valid and orbital debris is a recognized problem that can no longer be ignored. Eric Nichols will present his concept for a Space Controlled Reentry Assist Program (SCRAP) Satellite, which is capable of retrieving and deorbiting large pieces of space debris.
The approach to the SCRAP-Sat concept is to remove spacecraft and rocket body debris before a collision creates fragmentation objects. This satellite would attach to large objects and create a controlled re-entry to provide a safe process (avoiding populated areas) to mitigate the problem. The idea is to attack the largest debris in the most invasive orbits first and then work toward smaller, less problematic debris.
The initial system must be simple and low cost, and would likely involve a proof-of-concept demonstrator and then evolve in order to target more specific and challenging threats. Most of the SCRAP Sat components already exist and are relatively low cost, and could even use Cube Sat concepts if the capabilities are adequate. The proposed grappling tool is already in development at JPL, and differentiates this concept from other debris recovery designs. Since the missions are short duration, cost can be minimized since long-life hardware is not required. The final concept could include a family of capabilities including geostationary clean-up. This phased system development and deployment returns the greatest benefits.
The Humanist Center is at 627 W. Rio Salado Blvd (formerly 8th St.), Mesa, AZ 85201. Our meetings start at 11 am.