Removing Space Debris Through Sequential Captures and Ejections Academic Article uri icon


  • Low Earth orbit is overcluttered by rogue objects. Traditional satellite missions are not efficient enough to collect an appreciable amount of debris due to the high cost of orbit transfers. Many alternate proposals are politically controversial, costly, or dependent on further technological advances. This paper proposes an efficient mission structure and bespoke hardware to deorbit debris by capturing and ejecting them. These are executed through plastic interactions, and the momentum exchanges during capture and ejection assist the satellite in transferring to subsequent debris with substantial reduction in fuel requirements. The proposed hardware also exploits existing momentum to save fuel. Capturing debris at the ends of a spinning satellite, adjusting angular rate, and then simply letting go at a specified time provides a simple mechanism for redirecting the debris to an Earth-impacting trajectory or lower perigee. This paper provides analyses for orbit and hardware functionality and aspects of the control for debris collection. Copyright 2012 by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc. All rights reserved.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Missel, J., & Mortari, D.

citation count

  • 17

complete list of authors

  • Missel, Jonathan||Mortari, Daniele

publication date

  • January 2013