Space Debris Cleaner 'Terminator Tape' Primed To Drag Defunct Satellites From Orbit


'Tethers Unlimited' has demonstrated a solution to the issue of space debris using a 230-feet-long 'Terminator Tape deployed from electric signal of satellite

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Updated On:
Space debris

With Elon Musk's SpaceX launching 60 more satellites under its Star link program, space debris is a problem which only seems to be escalating. Several astronomers have raised this issue claiming that the project which aims at launching 11,943 satellites flying close to Earth will block the view to the stars and increase the space debris. Now, a company named - 'Tethers Unlimited' has demonstrated a solution to the issue using a 230-feet-long 'Terminator Tape', according to a press release.

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What is 'Terminator Tape'?

Tethers Unlimited states that 'Terminator tape' is a notebook-sized module attached to the exterior of a satellite. The module is reportedly attached to the satellite which can deploy a 230-feet long conductive tape through an electric signal from the satellite or an independent timer unit. The signal indicates when the satellite completes its mission and can be disposed off.

“This tape interacts with the space environment to create a drag force on the satellite that lowers its orbit far more rapidly than it would if it were simply abandoned in orbit,” Tethers Unlimited said in a press release. The company calls it 'an affordable, lightweight solution for removing space debris from an orbit'.

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Tethers Unlimited tests 'Terminator Tape'

Reports state that the company had attached an automated timer unit of the Terminator Tape module to the Porx-1 satellite which was launched in June 2019.  Explaining the results of the test, Tethers Unlimited CEO Dr. Rob Hoyt stated, "Three months after launch, as planned, our timer unit commanded the Terminator Tape to deploy. The observations were seen that the satellite immediately began de-orbiting over 24-times faster." Hence, the test proved that the satellite was disposed off using a lightweight and low-cost technology instead of remaining in orbit for hundreds of years.

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Future of 'Terminator Tape'

Tethers Unlimited is currently collaborating with Millennium Space Systems, TriSept, and RocketLab to prepare a scientific method-based low-Earth orbit flight experiment called “DRAGRACER”. This will compare the deorbit of two identical satellites– one with a Terminator Tape and another without one. The Indian government too had proposed Rs 33.3 crore for ISRO's 'Project Netra' for securing Indian satellites from space debris and other dangers.

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