ESA Revives its Space Deorbiting Program

ESA Revives its Space Deorbiting Program

Science Top Stories

A revival of ESA’s space deorbiting program may make it more appealing to the industry players and gain approval from member states.

The revival involves broadening the e.Deorbit program range to include functions additional to the deorbiting of a sole satellite. The functions could be anything from in-orbit refueling to undertaking repair work. The ESA feels that this move could make the program more feasible.

About 13 companies responded to ESA’s call with their proposals, all from within the member states or Canada. The director general of ESA, Jan Woerner disclosed about six being shortlisted from the total of 13 which would again be cut down to two. Subsequent to this the agency would attempt to solicit funding from member states during the four-monthly held ministerial conference due in November.

The chosen company would get payment for deorbiting the relevant satellite but would also have to perform further servicing for which no payment would be given by ESA. The agreement would go beyond the normal partnership between the two as it would put all onuses on the company to make the plan a viable one. Woerner failed to disclose the payment that would be made to the company for deorbiting a single satellite of the agency.

Woerner stated that there were two criteria for selecting the target satellite by companies in the fray and they were a 100 kilogram exceeding mass and the impossibility of the satellite falling into the atmosphere of the Earth in a time-frame of five years. If the company selected a geosynchronous satellite then it had two options  and they were either to move it into what was termed as the ‘graveyard orbit’ or get it into Earth’s atmosphere both of which were not so easy. In case of a geostationary satellite it would need to be moved really out or transported back to Earth.