To address the growing issue of space debris, EnduroSat launched a CubeSat called Exo-0 on November 11, 2023 that includes a 100-g (3.5-oz) device developed by Airbus. This innovative device utilizes the Earth’s magnetic field to prevent dead satellites from tumbling.
The US Space Surveillance Network reports that there are currently more than 25,000 artificial objects orbiting the Earth. While this may seem like a small number considering the vastness of space, most satellites are concentrated in a few highly sought-after orbits. This congestion can pose significant risks, as collisions between satellites can result in the creation of debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions, known as the Kessler syndrome. Given the numerous planned satellite launches in the coming years, managing space debris has become a top priority.
To tackle this challenge, Airbus has developed the Detumbler. This device, which is patented by Airbus, is a simple yet effective solution for stabilizing defunct satellites. Attached to a satellite, the Detumbler acts as a stabilizing system without the need for external power or propellants. It consists of a housing with a central rotor wheel and magnets that interact with the Earth’s magnetic field.
In normal circumstances, the rotor of the Detumbler functions like a compass and aligns the dead spacecraft with the magnetic field. If the satellite starts to tumble, the rotor’s movement generates eddy currents, creating a friction torque that dampens the motion and stabilizes the satellite.
The Detumbler is set to undergo testing in orbit early next year, offering hope for a practical solution to manage space debris. With the increasing number of satellite launches planned, such innovative devices are crucial in ensuring the sustainability and safety of space activities.