Swiss researchers cooperating on space clean-up operation

09 July 2024 10:01

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Renens/Neuenburg/Volketswil/Lausanne - Researchers from four institutions are developing a navigation system powered by Artificial Intelligence to detect debris in outer space. The project is part of the ESA mission ADRIOS.

Developers from the companies and institutes of ClearSpace Switzerland in Renens in the canton of Vaud, CSEM, Klepsydra from Volketswil in the canton of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) have joined forces to develop a navigation and tracking system for detecting space debris. According to a press release, the system is based on a Flash LiDAR tracking system that functions on the basis of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The unit, equipped with robust technology and software, is intended for use in space (in-orbit servicing, IOS). In addition to optical systems that require specific lighting conditions, the Flash LiDAR can scan and locate objects using a laser light beam. The laser is split across an area by a diffuser and can detect the size and speed of objects. Thanks to the AI-powered on-board navigation developed by Klepsydra, the LiDAR developed by CSEM and EPFL can collect and process data more quickly.

The new system is intended for use in the ADRIOS (Active Debris Removal/In-Orbit Servicing) mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). It is part of the ClearSpace project, which aims to capture the majority of the 35,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters and approximately 130 million smaller objects measuring between 0.1 and 1 centimeter in size. The objects are currently traveling through outer space at a speed of 28,000 kilometers per hour, which poses a threat to satellites and manned space missions.

“In our effort to make space sustainable, our partners are strong allies, offering years of experience in the space application field”, comments Jacques Viertl, Managing Director of ClearSpace Switzerland, in the press release. He adds: “Currently our team has different projects in robotics and navigation with CSEM, EPFL and Klepsydra Technologies. Their expertise, pragmatism and diligence allow us to advance ClearSpace’s cutting-edge In-Orbit Servicing”. The project is being supported by Innosuisse, the Swiss Innovation Agency. ce/ww

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