They develop a robot that could clean up space debris

Isbel Lázaro.
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Inspenet, November 13, 2023.

Managing space debris poses a complex challenge, and one that mechanical engineering professor at the University of Utah, Jake Abbott, is acutely aware of. That’s why he developed the omni magnet.

We have a big space junk problem that’s under everyone’s radar ,” explained Jake Abbott, also mentioning that this junk has the potential to cause big problems.

We are putting objects into space, much faster than they naturally fall from space and burn up in the atmosphere ,” he said. ” Over time, that just increases the risk of things accidentally crashing into each other in some super destructive way.

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Basically, we discovered a way to model the forces and torques that rotating magnets create on pieces of aluminum and other non-magnetic metals.“, said. “Then, using math, we basically figured out what all the different magnets would have to do to make that thing move the way we want it to move.“.

The robot has so much potential for success that it has caught the attention of an aerospace company.

They would like to have this in space within a couple of years,” Abbott exclaimed. “That’s what we’re working for .”

Although he has made progress, Abbott said his work and research will continue as he continues to perfect the magnet and work to remove the debris that constantly surrounds the Earth.

The problem of space debris

It is important to mention that last year, the International Space Station was forced to activate its thrusters in order to avoid collisions with space debris that were in its orbit.

It potentially endangers our satellites, it endangers the space station ,” Abbott warned. ” It endangers human missions .”

That is why in recent years, the professor has dedicated efforts to finding a solution to the dilemma, but the complexity lies in the rapid rotation of space debris.

There is no way to grab it safely; if you try to grab it, the risk of you turning it or your robotic arm turning into more debris is high ,” he said.

Abbott described the key to addressing space debris as the need to slow it down, displace it and ultimately induce its burning while in orbit.

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