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Is NASA planning to capture black knight? Lets check that out.
Black Knight is an unidentified object that orbits the Earth. Some conspiracy theorists claim that it has extraterrestrial origin. But most likely it is a debris from a previous space mission.
Currently, there are more than 1800 rocket bodies floating as debris in Low Earth Orbit. This debris is a serious threat to existing satellites and even to future space missions.
As shown in the movie Gravity, any impact of the debris with another object creates more debris that may set off cascading collisions via a phenomena called Kessler Effect. This could even lead to a doomsday scenario for space exploration, where any further space missions may be virtually impossible to undertake.
So it's no surprise that NASA has patented a solution to tackle this problem. The patented invention uses a spacecraft capable of automatically capturing a space debris and safely perform deorbiting.
Initially, a spacecraft is released into an orbit near the target debris, such as black knight. The spacecraft tracks the target debris to generate a motion profile of the target debris. The spacecraft also profiles surface characteristics of the target debris to identify a capture-part for docking. For example, an engine nozzle of a spent rocket body may be suitable place to dock and capture. Once the motion profile and the capture-part have been identified, the spacecraft begins a capture process, where the spacecraft maneuvers itself to reach near the target debris.
After the spacecraft has synchronized its position, speed and rotation with the target debris, a hard docking is performed using a mast. This mast is equipped with airbags on its tip which are designed to automatically inflate once the tip has entered the nozzle. This creates a firm interlocking between the spacecraft and the target debris. The spacecraft may then safely carry the space debris and release it into the atmosphere where it falls to earth.
NASA will soon launch such missions to clean the low earth orbit to ensure that space exploration is not hindered.
System, apparatus, and method for active debris removal
Assignee: The Aerospace Corporation (El Segundo, CA)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Houston, TX)
Inventors: Griffith, Sr.; Anthony D. ;Kohli; Rajiv; Burns; Susan H.; Damico; Stephen J.; Gruber; David J.; Hickey; Christsopher J.; Lee; David E. Robinson; Travis M. ; Smith; Jason T.; Spehar; Peter T., Adlis; David S. (Seabrook, TX), Kent; Brian M.