Scientists explore ways to reduce risks in spacecraft disposal

(ORDO NEWS) — The picture shows a simulation of the re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere of the ESA Transfer Vehicle (ATV) space truck. Scientists have used computer simulations to study its “death”.

The study was carried out as part of the MIDGARD (MultI-Disciplinary modeling of the Aerothemodynamically-induced fragmentation of Re-entering boDies) project of the ESA Open Space

Innovation Platform in collaboration with the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering of the University of Strathclyde.

Its goal is to reduce uncertainty in destructive atmospheric penetration modeling by combining high-precision, low-precision, and fast simulation techniques.

Atmospheric incineration is the traditional way to dispose of spacecraft and satellites at the end of their lives, but ESA and international regulations require the risk of injury to people or property on Earth to be less than 1 in 10,000.

Fabio Morgado, who works on the MIDGARD project, says : “Dealing with the risk of re-entry of space debris into the atmosphere is gradually becoming more urgent due to an increase in the number of objects in orbit, and, as a result, a higher re-entry frequency.

Prediction of return processes is influenced by progressive fragmentation and thermal erosion resulting from strong aerothermal loads on objects.”

Professor Marco Fossati, Principal Investigator at MIDGARD, adds: “Improved modeling is of paramount importance for developing safe disposal systems and assessing the associated collision risk.”

In the past, heavy items such as fuel tanks were delivered to Earth undamaged, but redesigning systems to use lighter parts or make them more likely to break upon re-entry could reduce the risks.

 

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