China has made significant strides in handling space debris with the successful deployment of a deorbiting sail for the payload capsule of a recently launched rocket using drag sail technology. Also, this was the first time a deorbiting sail system has ever been used in this way.
According to an announcement published on Wednesday by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, Chinese researchers successfully deployed a drag sail to deorbit a recently launched Long March 2 rocket.
When fully extended, the drag sail, which resembles a kite, covers a 25 square metre area (269 square feet). Even though it is only one-tenth the thickness of a human hair, it still ramped up atmospheric drag and accelerated the rocket’s final stage’s orbital decay.
Any form of low-Earth orbit satellite that has turned into space junk can be fitted with drag sails, a low-cost and well-proven technical solution. They can be rolled up and put on a spaceship before launch since they are flexible enough to do so.
They automatically unfold as they get closer to the debris, helping the spacecraft return to the atmosphere where it will disintegrate. When compared to letting garbage deorbit naturally, which could take years or decades, drag sails are a far faster option.
According to Interesting Engineering, 1,950 satellites are thought to be in service at the moment, with the remaining ones having turned into junk. The site also highlighted the 8,950 satellites that were launched into orbit. Approximately 5,000 satellites are still in orbit even though they have reached the end of their useful lifespan.
When it crashed into the moon in March 2022, a fragment of a Chinese space rocket that had presumably been used in a launch in October 2014 was wandering aimlessly across space.
Luckily, nobody was harmed in the encounter, but the International Space Station could have suffered significant damage if the debris had made it there.