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"Works like an air defense system". Paris startup creates a jet-powered "boxing glove" that will push space debris out of orbit

"Works like an air defense system". Paris startup creates a jet-powered "boxing glove" that will push space debris out of orbit
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Interceptors, a spacecraft, will be launched by a rocket from a specially equipped aircraft. When it reaches the upper layers of the atmosphere, the rocket will ignite its engine, and the spacecraft will detach from it in orbit.

The Interceptor will use onboard sensors and an engine to approach the target object, then "gently" push debris out of orbit using a giant boxing glove.

"The entire space sector is organized to carry out planned, long-duration missions... but clearing orbit is an unplanned, short mission," says Clyde Lahey, CEO of the Paris-based startup Dark, which is developing the Interceptor system.

In this sense, the Interceptor is "more like an air defense missile" that must always be ready, Lahey adds. At the same time, a direct hit from the spacecraft will not create additional debris.

In 2021, Dark completed a $5 million funding round, and recently closed another round for $6 million, with the participation of American investor Long Journey Ventures (led by Arielle Zuckerberg, the younger sister of Meta's founder).

In reality, the company still has much work to do in order to safely remove something from orbit, much like a second stage of a rocket. Prior to this, the startup focused on developing critical systems such as cryogenic engines and software—and is now working on developing technologies necessary for the unplanned quick missions of Interceptor, such as object detection and tracking from a long distance, autonomous flight algorithms, and systems for reliable controlled entry.

The team also needs to upgrade the aircraft, which will cost at least $50 million (or roughly the same price as building a launch pad), and is preparing to conduct a demonstration mission in 2026.

  • Space debris is any inactive equipment or refuse left by humans in space (rocket stages, inactive satellites, various debris, screws, nuts, or even a tool bag). According to the latest estimates by NASA, there are more than 25,000 objects larger than 10 cm in Earth's orbit—and 500,000 objects smaller than 10 cm.
  • As of January 2022, the total weight of material orbiting Earth exceeds 9,000 metric tons. The speed of debris is extremely high (about 25,300 km/h in low Earth orbit), so even a tiny piece can cause significant problems for satellites or spacecraft.

Source: TechCrunch

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