European Space Agency to develop new materials for recyclable satellites
The European Space Agency (ESA) is developing new materials for recyclable satellites which can be reused even after they are launched in Earth`s orbit.
London: The European Space Agency (ESA) is developing new materials for recyclable satellites which can be reused even after they are launched in Earth`s orbit.
As part of its Clean Space initiative, ESA is looking for new ideas on materials that could be recycled or converted into different, useful resources for other processes.
It costs a lot to put anything into space, a payload typically costs its own weight in gold, and the further it travels out into the Solar System the more valuable it becomes, ESA said.
So recycling or converting space hardware for follow-on missions could bring significant added value.
The idea is inspired by the sustainable "cradle to cradle" approach explored by terrestrial industry in recent years, where all the raw materials in a product can be later reused for another product, or consumed as food, with no waste residue and no loss in quality.
Adapting this approach to space, future planetary probes or satellites might become sources of fuel, water or other raw materials considered scarce for the exploration missions that come after them.
Examples might include grinding down metal alloys into powder to serve as raw materials for manufacturing new hardware by 3D printing.
Organic materials could be separated by heating for subsequent reuse of the resulting gases. Leftover solid rocket fuel might be broken down for reuse.
Biodegradable materials could be harnessed as biological nutrients in a life-support system, such as ESA`s Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELiSSA), a long-term effort to create artificial closed-loop life support serving future manned missions, based on microbes and higher plants.
But to enable such a widespread use of sustainable materials, future spacecraft might end up very different.
ESA`s new invitation for "Sustainable Materials Concepts" is seeking companies to study various concepts of this approach, including considering the kinds of materials that could be reused as biological or technical nutrients serving as resources for new other processes.