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Project will investigate removal of space debris and asteroids

Academics at Strathclyde University are set to investigate the removal of space debris and deflection of asteroids, leading the first research-based training network of its kind in the world.

According to a statement, the Stardust project will train the next generation of scientists, engineers and policy-makers with Strathclyde leading 14 partners across Europe in a new €4m (£3.2m) programme.

The European Commission-funded network will launch early next year and its pioneering research will have a significant impact on the future decisions of Europe on some of the most pressing issues in current space research.

Prof Jim McDonald, principal of Strathclyde University, said: ‘The observation, manipulation and disposal of space debris and asteroids represent one of the most challenging goals for modern space technology. Stardust will provide Strathclyde with the opportunity to make the significant advances needed to help protect our planet.’

Stardust will be led by Dr Massimilano Vasile of Strathclyde University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, which is also the base for the Advanced Space Concepts Laboratory.

Vasile said: ‘Asteroids and space debris represent a significant hazard for space and terrestrial assets and could have potentially devastating consequences for our planet.

‘The two share a number of commonalities. Both are uncontrolled objects whose orbit is deeply affected by a number of gravitational and non-gravitational interactions, both have an irregular shape and an uncertain attitude motion, and both are made of inhomogeneous materials that can respond unexpectedly to a deflection action.

‘Such a significant multidisciplinary technical challenge, with real societal benefit for the future, represents a compelling topic for a training network.’

The work at Strathclyde will involve collaboration between the university’s Advanced Space Concepts Laboratory, the Centre for Future Air-Space Transportation Technology, and the Institute of Photonics. 

Stardust’s 14 partners across Europe include the European Space Agency, Astrium, Southampton University, DFKi Bremen, the Astronomical Observatory of Belgrade, University of Rome Tor Vergata, University of Pisa, and the University of Madrid.

Readers' comments (1)

  • I note that current research concentrates on capturing space debris with a view to de-orbiting them so that they burn up on re-entry.
    Would it not be possible to capture the junk with a view to retaining it as one large junk pile (easier to monitor and avoid), or to then propelling the pile at the moon (could be useful scrap for future moon based activities)?
    I accept that the moon dump idea would require greater propulsion, but getting to the moon from earth-orbit would require less propulsion that getting the same amount of material from earth (ground level). Future projects could then benefit from having a ready supply of refined metals on the moon. Judging from the amount of junk floating around at the moment, that would surely be a considerable pile of resources, would it not?

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