Hundreds of thousands of debris are currently orbiting the Earth and their number is growing day by day because of scientific and commercial exploitation of space. Therefore, the need to perform Active Debris Removal (ADR) to stabilize the environmental effect and mitigate risks of a Kessler syndrome is real. To perform ADR, the idea proposed here is a new solution to safely deorbit space debris of various sizes using a capture system named INSIDeR, the Innovative Net & Space Inflatable structures for active Debris Removal.
INSIDeR is a patented concept, combining two key technologies:
• A net acting as capture system able to cope with large objects and to fit with different debris morphologies and tumbling rates
• Inflatable structures acting as deployment system ensuring control of the net movement, with a ring and two masts.
A deorbitation tether is used once the debris is captured to transmit the deorbiting loads.
This system relies on advantages of combining net and inflatable structures concepts, relative to:
- Adaptability to the debris target: adaptable to debris mass, size, and spin/tumbling rate
- Controllability during approach and damping of debris movement during coupling
- Adaptability to any ADR concept: INSIDeR is a kit box of about 50 cm edge that can be plugged on any system for mono or multi-debris removal chaser
This paper presents the results of the study to develop the concept and assess its feasibility conducted by CT Ingénierie under an ITI for ESA.
More specifically, the paper first presents the concept in more details, with the context of use of such a technology and its advantages of flexibility and risk reduction. The architecture of the system and the sizing of the main elements are described. Then, the approach, capture and deorbitation scenarii with INSIDeR are presented, highlighting the differences with other ADR concepts. This includes a sensitivity analysis on several parameters, such as the approach speed. The requirements on the chaser platform, mainly in terms of deltaV and of maneuverability and attitude control, are also defined.
The capture sequence is also investigated, showing the results of the net capture simulation performed on ABAQUS software. These simulations have been performed to prove the feasibility of the concept and to identify the advantages of the net slow dynamic achievable with INSIDeR, compared to thrown net existing in other concepts.
Eventually, the foreseen technology gaps and development roadmap are presented in this paper. It shows that each technology is individually already quite mature, which shortens the development roadmap of the system. The low maturity of this concept is at system level, at the interfaces between a tether, a net and inflatable structures, for this specific application. The conclusion discusses on the overall feasibility and on the future steps required to develop this technology.