Space debris, or nonfunctional artificial material that orbits Earth, can range in size from microscopic paint chips to discarded parts of a rocket. Spacecraft can be damaged when even a micrometer-sized piece of debris collides with it.
Purdue University researchers have developed a tool to collect space debris present in Earth’s orbit. It leverages an origami pattern that folds in sequence to trap debris while other layers expand to capture more. The structure is designed around additive manufacturing and its geometry has a greater ability to withstand debris impact.
The technology has been validated through the fabrication and testing of a scaled-down prototype system.
Ran Dai, associate professor, School of Aeronautics and Astronautics
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“The approach to trash in space has been similar to the approach on Earth: there’s so little of it compared to the surrounding area that it doesn’t seem to pose a problem. We need methods to address trash in space because of its increasing abundance and the increased use of satellites and other space operations.” – Aaron Taggart, Licensing Associate – Physical Sciences