A piece of space junk recently left a hole in a robotic arm on the International Space Station, highlighting the pressing need to address the threat posed by space debris.
The European Space Agency estimates there are nearly 129 million pieces of debris in space, where objects move at such high velocity that even something very small can do extensive damage.
To address this growing danger, Kurt Anderson, a professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is leading an effort to develop a semi-autonomous space trash collector. The device is fittingly named OSCaR, which is short for “Obsolete Spacecraft Capture and Removal.”
Each OSCaR is a three-unit (10 cm x 10 cm x 30 cm) member of a class of very small satellites known as CubeSats. Each OSCaR is being designed to remove up to four independent pieces of space debris. So without requiring significant expense, multiple OSCaRs could be sent to space accompanying larger payloads and then released to semi-autonomously seek out, capture, and then de-orbit space debris.
To hear Anderson discuss OSCaR and how it works, watch this video.
Anderson is available to discuss the growing problem of space debris and how OSCaR could be a viable part of the solution.