The space junk problem is worsening by the day with more and more space launches happening around the world and scientists are actively trying to find out a solution.
One of the solutions to this problem could be the Brane Craft, being developed by US-based Aerospace Corporation. Brane Craft is an ultra-thin spacecraft that can remove space debris – which potentially threaten satellites or astronauts – by enveloping junk in the Earth’s orbit and dragging it through the atmosphere, causing it to burn up. The craft is a flexible and less than half the thickness of a human hair.
Brane Crafts will be powered by ultrathin solar cells as well as a little bit of propellant. The company plans to launch the craft frequently, with many Branes deployed at the same time, helping to reduce costs. After each Brane envelops a piece of space junk, it will navigate back to towards Earth, causing the junk to burn up in the atmosphere.
The spacecraft is designed to be resilient. Its microprocessor and digital electronics are fabricated in a way to ensure that if one component gets damaged, the others will continue to work. For example, if one solar cell gets hit by a micrometeorite, only that cell will fail.
The project received funding from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts programme, which focuses on space research that are in early stages.
“It has to be bullet-proof, because a 5-micron diameter particle can penetrate the main structural sheet, which is only 10 microns thick,” said Siegfried Janson, principal investigator and a senior scientist at Aerospace Corporation.