Removing debris with electrodynamic propulsion
Pictorial representation of the ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminator (EDDE) concept
NASA has concluded a $1.9 million contract with Star Technology and Research (STAR) earlier this year to develop the ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminator (EDDE) vehicle
, a low-cost solution for low Earth orbit space debris removal.
STAR claimed that EDDE is able to remove nearly all the 2,465 objects of more than 2 kg that are now in 500-2000 km orbits. That is more than 99 percent of the total mass, collision area, and debris-generation potential in LEO. EDDE is a propellantless vehicle that reacts against the Earth's magnetic field. EDDE can climb about 200 km/day and change orbit plane at 1.5°/day, even in polar orbit.
After catching and releasing one object, EDDE can climb and change its orbit to reach another object within days, while actively avoiding other catalog objects. Binocular imaging allows accurate relative orbit determination from a distance. Capture uses lightweight expendable nets and real-time man-in-the-loop control. After capture, EDDE drags the debris down and releases it and the net into a short-lived orbit safely below ISS, or takes it to a recycling facility for reuse. EDDE can also sling debris into controlled reentry, or can include an adjustable drag device with the net before release, to allow later adjustment of payload reentry location. A dozen 100-kg EDDE vehicles could remove nearly all 2166 tons of LEO orbital debris in 7 years.
Click on image to watch a debris removal simulation.