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Beyond Impossible: Cleaning Up Space Debris with ELSA-d
You all know casino games can deliver sweeping cash wins... but did you know there is a 175 kg magnetic ‘vacuum’ cleaner sweeping up space debris, as we speak? This crafty little device is capable of identifying and porting with obsolete space paraphernalia and bringing it back down to earth.
Nothing is Beyond the Realm of Possibility – At Springbok Casino or in Outer Space!
When It comes to outer space, you will know that anything to do with space is not beyond the realm of possibility. If you’ve been following our Springbok Casino news articles, you’d have read about some of the amazing space missions that are underway.
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Selfies on Mars and Constellations of Satellites
Now back to the subject at hand… Right now, in 2021, we have a fully functional rover and helicopter on Mars snapping selfies as they rock, roll and flutter around the Red Planet. There are constellations of micro satellites swarming across the skies, providing super-charged internet connectivity to the previously wi-fi impaired.
Super Heavy Boosters That Don’t Explode
SpaceX’s reusable Super Heavy Starship booster is edging ever closer to lift-off – and hopefully safe touch-down – even though prototypes are still exploding. Yet, when it comes to the vast expanses of the universe, we already know our black holes from our giant radio galaxies… and pretty much everything in-between!
Here's a thing. Our insatiable curiosity about the great beyond has left Lower Earth Orbit in a terrible state.
The Mount Everest of the Universe
Space has become a bit like Mount Everest. We happily tout kilograms of equipment and gear to the summit – but leave it all behind as we descend, one oxygen-deprived step after another.
In 2019, a clean-up crew hauled around 11 tonnes of waste off the mountain. Estimates are there is another 28 tonnes out there. That is not accounting for the bodies of the 150 climbers who did not make it up… or down!
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9,200 Tonnes of Debris Swirling Around in Space
As far as altitude and waste is concerned, Everest is small fry. Right now, there are tonnes of space junk swirling around in orbit – 9,200 tonnes to be precise. To put that into context, consider the weight and bulk of the largest dump truck in the world, the Belaz 75710. Multiply the vehicle by 25 and you have an idea of the scale of the problem!
Who You Gonna Call? As-tro-scale!
How do you get rid of that much intergalactic garbage? You recruit the services of Astroscale, a privately owned ‘orbital debris removal company’. What is their niche market? Tidying up the orbital highway – or several highways, as a matter of fact.
Astroscale has several brilliant scientists and technicians who really know their stuff. They are the real-world equivalents of Dr. Winmore. If you are a regular at Springbok Casino, you will know who he is!
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End-Of-Life Services for Satellites
The Tokyo based company recently launched a demo mission of its End-Of-Life Services (ELSA-d) into space. The idea is to prove to its ever-growing customer base – think SpaceX, One Web and Blue Orbit – that ELSA-d has the capabilities and technologies to pull off a cosmic cleaning feat.
A Stacked Demo Model Launched in March 2021
What is ELSA-d? It is basically a mock-up of a servicer satellite – the one doing the debris capture and removal – and a second, much smaller, client satellite that mimics a piece of replicated space debris. These two craft are stacked together at launch which, by the way, happened successfully on 22 March 2021.
Detection and Capture of Space Junk
The servicer and client satellite are not always co-joined. Once safely in space they pull off a series of manoeuvres that involve temporary separation. During that time, the servicer satellite intentionally ‘loses’ the debris satellite.
With the able assistance of a heap of cool technologies and tools – and the ground ops team located right here on Earth – the servicer relocates and captures the ‘debris.
It is all a bit like the casino games development team at Real Time Gaming. Rather than hunting down debris, they are intent on delivering an outstanding gambling experience online. You could be the beneficiary of the awesome entertainment. That is, if you are not already a signed-up member at Springbok Casino!
The High-Tech Equivalent of an Extra-Terrestrial Bloodhound
How does the ‘track and capture’ of debris happen in outer space? The servicer loops through the cosmos searching for its prey like an extra-terrestrial blood hound.
Once it has tracked down its elusive space detritus, it uses a flight dynamics system to align to the debris with a few slick dance moves. It locks on to the ‘junk’ and a retractable docking plate (DP) is released. The DP attaches to a ferromagnetic plate on the debris satellite, using a magnetic capture system!
The entire ELSA-d system is engineered to catch space debris. It is almost as good as our players are at capturing line wins. That, of course, is only possible in the casino games arranged under the slots’ category!
Small Package Capable of Big Things
The beauty of ELSA-d is its awesome efficiency at netting both tumbling and non-tumbling debris. In the infinite expanses of space, that is a massive achievement. When you consider the servicer module is around the size of a large convection over (660 x 640 x 1100 mm) and weighs just 175 kg, the adage ‘big things come in small packages’ springs to mind!
Loads of On-Board Gizmos and Gadgets
It is not the module itself that is incredibly smart at locating, capturing and porting with junk. It is the on-board gizmos and gadgets. Navigation cameras, accelerometers, gyro sensors, sun-sensors, star trackers and laser range finders are a few of the tools currently in service. Kind of like the dashboard at Springbok Casino where you’ll find our casino games, bonuses, cashier and much more!
Deployable Sustainable Power Source
If you think that is amazing, how about the deployable wings that are, in fact, a double solar array power distribution module. ELSA-d is really as smart and self-sustainable as can be. That said, can ELSA-d and the successors of the demo mission harvest waste that is already clogging up space? Not unless the debris has an inbuilt ferromagnetic plate built-in. That, of course, is beyond the realm of possibility!
Geared for Future Retrieval Services
What that essentially means is the End-Of-Life service is a future retrieval service for spacecraft and satellite operators. The good folk at Astroscale are no doubt hard at work figuring out how to catch and de-orbit the existing mess caused by an estimated 560 intergalactic fragmentation events!
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