Rocket Lab Develops Solutions for Removing Space Debris
Tom Spendlove posted on December 27, 2018 |

Peter Beck from Rocket Lab wants to clear debris out of space. He and his team have developed the Electron launch vehicle to send small satellites to space, and let satellite companies send their projects on a 'ride share' launch to make space more affordable for everyone. However, Beck says that in the near future debris will make space flight more difficult due to the 700,000 pieces of space debris over one centimeter in size, and millions smaller than one centimeter. Rocket Lab developed the NABEO dragsail launched in November 2018 to bring space debris back down to earth, and the group is running a Kickstarter campaign for their NABEO2 project with an eye on March or April 2019.

Most dragsails are used in satellites between 100 and 1000 kilograms, but Rocket Lab saw a need for the current waves of nanosatellites to also decommission themselves at end of life. The NABEO system is 2.5 square meter sail that deploys from a 10 centimeter cube that can be attached to nanosatellites. The NABEO's first test was on Rocket Labs' November 11 launch from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The system is still in orbit and the team is looking for evidence of dragsail deployment and de-orbit behavior.

It's great to think that humanity has launched so many rockets and payloads into space that we're now concerned about cleaning up the afterimages of those missions. It's a problem but on some level it seems to be a great problem to have. This is after we get past the mindblowing idea that Rocket Lab now has the means to bring payloads to orbit a few times a year to companies able to raise the funds. The entire program is even named after my second or third favorite song from New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo. As crowdfunding campaigns go this is going to be a hard sell and as of this writing on December 27 less than $500 has been raised, but the long term goals and ideas here are definitely worth exploring. The campaign ends on January 19, 2019.

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