Published: 2023-05-18 12:07:42 • Daniel Gårdefelt
Magnets in the Field of Space Debris Tracking and Removal
Space debris, also called "space junk," is becoming more of a problem because it poses a major risk to satellites, space missions, and even the International Space Station (ISS). Because of this, scientists and engineers are coming up with new ways to find and get rid of space junk. Magnets have come to be seen as a useful tool in this effort because of their unique properties and possible uses.
Using magnets to track space junk
One of the hardest parts of fixing the space debris problem is keeping track on the huge number of objects that orbit the Earth. Magnets are a key part of this process because they make tracking systems more sensitive and accurate.
Magnetometers, which are instruments that can find and measure magnetic fields, are one way to do this. Magnetometers can help find and keep track of space junk by analyzing the magnetic signatures of these objects. This information can be used to predict possible collisions and plan how spacecraft and satellites will move to avoid them.
Using magnets to get rid of space junk
Once space junk has been found and tracked accurately, it needs to be taken out of orbit in a safe way. Magnets can be used in several ways to reach this goal:
Magnetic grappling: With this method, a spacecraft with a magnetic grapple is sent out to pick up and bring back space junk. The magnetic grapple would be made to attract the space junk magnetically. This would allow it to be pulled to a lower orbit, where it would eventually fall back into the Earth's atmosphere and burn up.
Electrodynamic tethers: This method involves attaching a long, conductive tether to a satellite or piece of space junk. When an electric current is run through the tether, it interacts with the magnetic field of the Earth and creates a force that can be used to pull the debris out of orbit. Electrodynamic tethers can be used to clean up space junk or keep the orbit of working satellites in place.
Magnetic sails, also called "magsails," are made of a big loop of wire that creates a magnetic field when an electric current flows through it. Charged particles in the Earth's magnetosphere interact with the magnetic field. This creates a drag force that can be used to slow down and get rid of space junk.
Magnets have a lot of potential for locating and get rid of space junk. Magnets can help reduce the risks that come with space debris by making tracking systems more accurate and coming up with new ways to get rid of debris.