UK researchers have developed a device to drag space debris out of orbit.
They plan to launch a demonstration of their "CubeSail" next year. It is a small satellite cube that deploys a thin, 25-sq-m plastic sheet.
Residual air molecules still present in the spacecraft's low-Earth orbit will catch the sheet and pull the object out of the sky much faster than is normal.
The Surrey Space Centre team says the concept could be fitted to larger satellites and even rocket stages.
The group also envisages that a mature system would even be sent to rendezvous and dock with redundant spacecraft to clean them from orbit.
I still think my idea was the best one, but you'll have to be the judge of that:
My solution is a spiraling vehicle that pushes space junk ahead of itself--think of a space equivalent of a bulldozer that never comes back. This vehicle is launched into orbit, and there it deploys a massive basket-shaped appendage ahead of it. Using predetermined coordinates, it pushes outward from the Earth's gravitational pull, gathering bits of space debris ahead of it that are moving with it as it leaves orbit, not against it because that would cause a catastrophic collision. As the net collects slower-moving debris and pushes it forward, the "net" uses small hooks, magnets (although a lot of space debris probably won't stick to a magnet because they tend to use a lot of aluminum alloys), grabbers, and adhesives to hold on to the debris--it's not just the big items, but the nuts and bolts we have to worry about as well.
Once the device has cleared orbit, and effectively cleared the path ahead of it, a second stage rocket fires, pushing it away from the Earth at a rate that will prevent it from falling back into orbit. Affix a warning beacon and let the device push away from the Earth at a leisurely pace.
I have to confess that I never followed up on it. Does that make me a terrible blogger? Sure. But it also means I'm a busy man. I put these things on my blog so that people can benefit from my brilliance. I can't be expected to be entirely organized, though. Peej is out of town and I'm tired.