The Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) is set to design a spacecraft for cleaning the geostationary orbit from spent satellites and LV upper stages, Izvestia wrote on Friday.
The space cleaner project will be launched in 2018 and 10.8 billion rubles will be allocated to finance it, the newspaper said. The product code-named Liquidator will be ready in 2025.
"The geostationary orbit is packed. The mission is super complicated. The developer has yet to be named. I think projects proposed by several manufacturers experienced in the design and construction of spacecraft operating on the geostationary orbit will be considered. These are Energia Corporation, Khrunichev Space Center, NPO Lavochkin and Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems. Presumably, the companies with higher proficiency in orbital approach and docking operations will have some advantage because such technologies will be required in the project," said Alexander Danilyuk, First Deputy General Director of TsNIIMash, the leading think tank of Roscosmos.
He said the space cleaner would have two options: either to lift the collected spacecraft and their fragments to a higher level where they would not be an impediment, or to de-orbit them and dump into the so-called spaceship cemetery off the Christmas Island in the Pacific.
"It is easier to lift [spacecraft] to a higher orbit. It is possible to approach and seize the spacecraft, push them into a different orbit and proceed to the next task," Danilyuk said.
According to Izvestia, Roscosmos plans to start the cleaning process in the geostationary orbit, which goes along the equator, 36,000 meters above the sea level, because the geostationary orbit deploys telecom satellites and therefore has the biggest commercial value. However, 73 percent of space debris can be found on low orbits with an altitude of up to 2,000 kilometers.
Every space nation has acknowledged the pressing problem of space debris, the newspaper said. Space activity leftovers are hindering the construction of new systems and create a threat to manned missions.
Most space debris (40 percent of all man-made objects in the near-Earth space) belongs to China. The United States ranks second with 27.5 percent, Russia goes third with 25.5 percent, and 7 percent belongs to other countries. The U.S. Space Surveillance Network says the near-Earth orbits hold 16,200 objects which can destroy a spacecraft in the case of collision, Izvestia pointed out.
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