Researchers at the Naval Research Laboratory are working on a concept that could not only help steer satellites back down to earth when they’re decommissioned, but also clean up space clutter in the process.
The idea is to outfit new satellites with thin tethers about a kilometer long. Running an electric current through the cord would enable a satellite to steer itself using its own electric field as well as the magnetic field from Earth.
Think of it as an invisible rudder that could someday guide old satellites home.
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