space debris removal

My advisor (Prof. Daniele Mortari) and I have been working closely to explore a new and creative idea  for tackling the problem of space debris.  The problem stumping standard missions is that space debris is very spread out.  It simply takes too much fuel to travel between debris.  Space Sweeper is a satellite mission structure that plans to flip the problem on its head by using the debris itself as fuel!  It does so by capturing and ejecting debris with plastic collisions.  This eliminates the need to burn fuel for full rendezvouses, and saves fuel by keeping the craft light.  Additionally, the momentum exchanged from the plastic collisions acts as two free impulses that can be used in place of fuel.  The hope is to develop a mission plan that is efficient enough to make space debris removal a practical task.

Sling-Sat is the proposed hardware to enact Space Sweeper, and is equally innovative.  It is a spinning satellite that collects debris at the ends of adjustable arms.  Adjusting the length of these arms controls the angular rate and achieves a desired tangential ejection speed.  Timing the release exacts the ejection angle.  Through this process, debris can be redirected to burn up in the atmosphere.


  1. poster
  2. banner
  3. Missel, J. and Mortari, D. "Removing Space Debris through Sequential Capture and Ejection," Accepted by AIAA Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, awaiting print.
  4. Missel, J. and Mortari, D. "Optimization of Debris Removal Path for TAMU Sweeper," Paper AAS 12-167 of the 22nd AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting Conference, Charleston, SC, Jan. 29 - Feb. 2, 2012.
  5. Missel, J. and Mortari, D. "Sling Satellite for Debris Removal with Aggie Sweeper," Paper AAS 11-256 of the 21st AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting Conference, New Orleans, LA, Feb. 13-17, 2011.


  3. space safety magazine
  4. coalition for space exploration
  5. tewlve impacts for 2012
  6. science seekers
  7. satellite news
  8. tamu engineering news
  9. news blog
  10. hobby space
  11. satellite news digest
  12. local NBC news


Copyright © 2012 jonathan missel

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