Powerful Magnetic Beams Can Be Used To Blast Dead Satellites, Research Suggests
Soon, broken and dead satellites could be blasted out of orbit with a magnetic grappling beam so that they cannot cause damage to other spacecraft. Researcher Emilien Fabacher from France’s University of Toulouse is working on the innovative solution with help from the European Space Agency (ESA).
According to Science Alert, the novel technology could also help in keeping groups of new satellites in orbit that might help scientists in combining batches of satellites flying in formation to create giant telescopes in the future. The magnetic tug idea would include a chaser satellite launched into orbit to move redundant ones out of their paths.
"With a satellite you want to deorbit, it is much better if you can stay at a safe distance, without needing to come into direct contact and risking damage to both chaser and target satellites," Fabacher said. "So the idea I am investigating is to apply magnetic forces either to attract or repel the target satellite, to shift its orbit or deorbit it entirely."
Although the idea behind the technology sounds good, getting hold of the satellites is not an easy job as they weigh several tons and are moving at the speed of thousands of kilometers per hour to maintain a stable orbit above the planet. Therefore, any wrong move could be disastrous while handling satellites traveling at that kind of speed.
At present, the scientist is carrying out calculations on how the whole system would pan out and if the magnetosphere of the planet might play a role in future missions. Provided that the research leads to implementations in the future, the technology used on the chaser satellites to generate a magnetic field can be powerful enough to influence the satellites they are chasing. Consequently, the technology could also be used to help solve the space junk problem one day.