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TSS独家:太空垃圾环绕地球-这是清理的方法

TSS EXCLUSIVE: Space Junk Litters Around Earth’s Orbit – Here’s How We Can Clean It Up

by Rhodilee Jean Dolor

As low-Earth orbit becomes more congested, researchers are working on different ways to clean up space junk. Fragments from disintegrated satellites and old rocket parts travel fast enough they can hit spacecrafts, satellites, and the International Space Station (ISS), where astronauts are on board. The possibility that some of the hurtling fragments manage to pass through our planet’s atmosphere is not also entirely inconceivable. 

随着近地轨道变得更加拥挤,研究人员正在研究不同的清理太空垃圾的方法。来自解体卫星和旧火箭部件的碎片能以足够快的速度传播,它们可以击中航天器、卫星和宇航员所在的国际空间站(ISS)。一些飞来飞去的碎片设法穿过地球大气层的可能性也并非完全不可想象。

Just two months ago in May, a nearly 20-ton piece of a Chinese rocket crashed down on Earth. The large chunk from the Long March 5B rocket, which China launched to orbit the planet for a test, did not burn up when it entered into the atmosphere. When it landed, it became the largest space junk to have uncontrollably fallen back into Earth’s surface since 1991, when the 43-ton Salyut-7 Soviet space station re-entered the atmosphere. Luckily, the piece from Long March 5B landed in the Atlantic Ocean. 

在5月,一枚近20吨重的中国火箭坠落地球。中国发射的长征5B火箭(长征5B)进入大气层后没有燃烧殆尽,成为自1991年以来最大的不受控坠落物体(1991年苏联“礼炮7号”空间站失控坠落地球)。幸运的是,长征5B的残骸落入了大西洋。

While the possibility of large debris from space falling back to Earth remains remote, it may still happen and even lead to more devastating impact. Researchers are on the lookout for effective ways to clean up the Earth’s orbit to prevent the risks posed by space junks. Here are some of their most recent ideas:

虽然太空中的大碎片落回地球的可能性仍然很小,但它仍有可能发生,甚至会导致更具破坏性的影响。研究人员正在寻找清理地球轨道的有效方法,以防止太空垃圾带来的风险。以下是他们最近的一些想法:

Self-Destructing Robot
自毁机器人

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced last year that it would launch the ClearSpace-1 mission, which is touted as the world’s first space cleanup mission, in 2025. 

欧洲航天局(ESA)去年宣布,将于2025年发射ClearSpace-1任务,该任务被吹捧为世界上第一个太空清理任务。

The plan is to use a four-armed robot to capture and de-orbit a 100-kilogram rocket fragment that was left in orbit after ESA deployed its Proba-V remote-sensing satellite in 2013.

该计划将使用一个四臂机器人捕捉并解轨一个100公斤重的火箭碎片,该碎片是欧空局2013年部署其Proba-V遥感卫星后留在轨道上的。

The self-destructing robot will latch onto the fragment and then dive down to Earth, where it will burn up in the atmosphere along with the captured space junk. If everything goes as planned, ESA says the follow-up missions will aim to catch bigger fragments and multiple pieces of space debris at once.

这种自毁机器人将锁定在碎片上,然后潜入地球,在那里它将与捕获的太空垃圾一起在大气层中燃烧。欧空局说,如果一切按计划进行,后续任务的目标是一次捕获更大的碎片和多个太空碎片。

“We will be continuing our development of essential guidance, navigation and control technologies and rendezvous and capture methods through a new project called Active Debris Removal/ In-Orbit Servicing – ADRIOS,” says ESA head of Clean Space initiative Luisa Innocenti.

欧空局清洁空间倡议负责人路易莎·因诺琴蒂说:“我们将通过一个名为主动碎片清除/在轨服务的新项目,继续开发必要的制导、导航和控制技术以及交会和捕获方法。”

“The results will be applied to ClearSpace-1. This new mission, implemented by an ESA project team, will allow us to demonstrate these technologies, achieving a world first in the process.”

“结果将应用于ClearSpace-1。这项由欧空局项目组实施的新任务将使我们能够展示这些技术,这将是世界首次。”

Luc Piguet, chief executive of ClearSpace, the Swiss startup developing the robot, says the goal is to eventually de-orbit objects without destroying the debris-cleaning machine.

开发这种机器人的瑞士初创公司ClearSpace的首席执行官lucpiguet说,行动的目标是最终在不破坏碎片清理机的情况下脱离轨道。

Foam Debris Catcher
泡沫碎片收集器

A Russian startup is also working on a project that may eventually help clean up the orbital junkyard. StartRocket is developing a satellite called the “Foam Debris Catcher” that uses sticky polymer foam to capture and de-orbit space debris.

俄罗斯的一家初创企业也在进行一个项目,可能最终会帮助清理轨道垃圾场。StartRocket公司正在开发一种名为“泡沫碎片捕捉器”的卫星,它使用粘性聚合物泡沫来捕获和脱离轨道的太空碎片。

The device is like a spider web that ejects lattices of foam when it gets close to clouds of debris. The foam then covers tons of space junk and then descends into the Earth’s atmosphere and burns up.

这个装置就像一个蜘蛛网,当它靠近碎片云时,它会喷射出网状的泡沫。泡沫会覆盖数吨的太空垃圾,然后降落到地球大气层中燃烧。

Space junk expert John Crassidis, from the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York says the foam can work in removing fragments in space because of aerodynamic drag, the force on an object that resists its motion.

纽约州立大学布法罗大学机械与航空航天工程系的太空垃圾专家约翰·克拉西迪斯说,由于空气动力阻力(物体上的阻力阻碍物体运动),这种泡沫可以清除太空中的碎片。

“It works on the well-known process of increasing a debris surface area in order to increase its drag, and thus make it re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up faster.”

它的工作原理是增加碎片的表面积,以增加其阻力,从而使其重新进入地球大气层并更快地燃烧

Phase one of the project will launch into orbit the Test Foam Sat (TFS) late next year to see if the foam concept will indeed work. The TFS is just a solar-powered 3D printer that will attempt to create square foam traps. 

该项目正处于第一阶段,将于明年晚些时候将测试泡沫卫星(TFS)送入轨道,以观察泡沫概念是否真的能起作用。TFS只是一个太阳能驱动的3D打印机,它将尝试创建方形泡沫陷阱。

According to StartRocket, the TFS can de-orbit as much as 50 kg of space junk in five years. The firm adds that it will launch a bigger and more capable satellite if all goes well with phase one.

根据StartRocket的说法,TFS可以在五年内使多达50公斤的太空垃圾脱离轨道。该公司补充说,如果第一阶段进展顺利,它将发射一颗更大、能力更强的卫星。

Harpoon
“鱼叉”

Another promising project that can alleviate the debris problem in space uses a harpoon designed to skewer and reel in space fragments. 

另一个有希望缓解太空碎片问题的项目使用了一个“鱼叉”,用来叉和卷起太空碎片。

In February 2018, the RemoveDebris mission successfully tested for the first time in space the harpoon technology developed by an aerospace company Airbus for debris removal. Engineers fired and successfully snagged an aluminum target out of orbit and reeled it into the main spacecraft.

2018年2月,RemoveDebris首次在太空成功测试了鱼叉技术,该技术由一家航天空中客车公司开发,用于清除碎片。工程师发射了一枚铝靶,随后成功地将其从轨道上拦截下来并将其卷进主航天器。

“We have tested it extensively on the ground but obviously, there are things that we can’t completely simulate on the ground,” says Alastair Wayman, advanced project engineer. “The behavior in orbit and in the ground testing was very similar. We got the same accuracy that we expected, we got the same firing speed and we successfully captured the target, and doing that in space didn’t have an impact on the operation.”

高级项目工程师阿拉斯泰尔韦曼(Alastair Wayman)说:“我们已经在地面上进行了广泛的测试,但很明显,有些事情我们无法在地面上完全模拟。”。“在轨道和地面测试中的行为非常相似。我们获得了与预期相同的精度,同样的射击速度,我们成功地捕获了目标,在太空中这样做对行动没有影响。”

Another test conducted in February 2019 yielded similar results. Researchers fired the harpoon at a satellite panel at a speed of 20 meters per seconds and successfully penetrated the target object.

2019年2月进行的另一项测试也得出了类似的结果。研究人员以每秒20米的速度向卫星面板发射鱼叉,并成功穿透目标物体。

Orbital-Use Fees
轨道使用费

While most of the proposed solutions on reducing space junk focus on literally cleaning up the orbit, findings of new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggest an alternative approach to mitigating space debris: imposing orbital use fees.

虽然大多数减少太空垃圾的建议都集中在清理轨道上,但发表在《国家科学院院刊》上的新研究结果表明,减少空间碎片的另一种方法是征收轨道使用费。

Economist Matthew Burgess, an affiliated faculty member in Economics at the University of Colorado Boulder, and colleagues argue that managerial and technological solutions to remove space debris and de-orbiting satellites will not solve the issue because space junk is essentially an incentive problem. They also warn that the removal of space debris may even motivate operators to launch more satellites.

科罗拉多大学博尔德分校(University of Colorado Boulder)经济学附属教职员工、经济学家马修•伯吉斯(Matthew Burgess)及其同事认为,清除空间碎片和脱离轨道卫星的管理和技术解决方案无法解决问题,因为太空垃圾本质上是一个激励问题。他们还警告说,清除太空垃圾甚至可能促使运营商发射更多卫星。

In their study, the researchers found that the orbital-use fees can force operators to consider the expected lifetime value of their satellites against the cost of launching another satellite into orbit, which could add up to more fragments in space.

在他们的研究中,研究人员发现,轨道使用费会迫使运营商权衡其卫星的预期寿命价值和将另一颗卫星送入轨道的成本,这可能会导致更多的太空碎片。

“Companies aren’t accounting for the cost their satellites impose on other operators when they decide whether or not to launch,” said Burgess. “We need a policy that lets satellite operators directly factor in the costs their launches impose on other operators.”

伯吉斯说:“公司在决定是否发射卫星时,没有考虑卫星给其他运营商带来的成本。“我们需要一项政策,将发射对其它卫星运营商的成本也直接计入发射成本中。”

Keeping Earth And Its Orbit Safe From Space Debris
保护地球及其轨道不受空间碎片的影响

Scientists are already aware that space debris poses a definite hazard as early as 1961. Still, the number of man-made objects circling Earth continues to increase as space agencies and private companies launch spacecraft and satellites into orbit. 

科学家早在1961年就已经意识到空间碎片构成了明确的危害。不过,随着航天机构和私营公司将航天器和卫星送入轨道,环绕地球的人造物体数量仍在继续增加。

Earth’s orbit is now more congested than ever, and with it is the increased risk of dangerous collisions that can destroy crucial instruments in space, and the hurtling back of bulky rocket and satellite fragments into Earth. 

地球的轨道现在比以往任何时候都更加拥挤,随之而来的是危险碰撞的风险增加,这些危险的碰撞会摧毁太空中的重要仪器,还可能让笨重的火箭和卫星碎片飞回地球。

Hopefully, humanity’s improved scientific knowledge, particularly in space and physics, can eventually address the crowded condition in orbit. Our ability to clean up this junkyard beyond our atmosphere can eventually keep our space and planet safe. 

希望人类不断提高的科学知识,特别是空间和物理学知识,最终能够解决轨道上拥挤的状况。我们清理大气层外的垃圾场的能力最终可以保证我们的太空和地球的安全。

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