German space robots to shunt dodgy satellites into space

German scientists have revealed plans to shunt failing and dead satellites into outer space, using robots that should be ready in four years

The level of space junk circling the Earth has reached critical levels,  potentially endangering the  multibillion-pound satellite communications industry as well as current and future astronaut missions, so the boffins at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) have announced they’re on the case.

Unfortunately, the German space robots won’t be the sort of thing you see in sci-fi films, wielding deadly lasers and blowing up errant spacecraft with vast explosions of white sparks.

Instead, the craft will simply push failing satellites into “graveyard orbits”, and clear up the space clutter in geostationary orbit, 22,000 miles above the Earth.

There’s currently over 200 dead satellites drifting around in this orbit, and the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety has warned that the number could increase fivefold over the next decade.

Klaus Landzettel, head knob twiddler of space robotics at DLR, was confident that the development of new machines capable of withstanding the massive temperatures ranges from -170C (-274F) to 200C (392F) backed by engineering advances will produce robots that will be “ready to be used on any satellite, whether it’s designed to be docked or not”.

But we’d still like some explosions.

[Via]

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