On the feasibility of reuse of spacecraft material in space

Space debris is one of the most important challenges the space community is facing, with more than 100 million objects in Low Earth Orbits (LEO) ranging from few millimeters to as large as rockets stages and used satellites. Moreover, new space industry projects are planned to send up satellite constellations of thousands small satellites. All this increases the risk of collision between two spacecrafts and the density of objects in low Earth orbit to reach a point where a collision between objects can cause a cascade in which each collision generated space debris that increase the likelihood of further collisions known as the Kessler syndrome

Space sustainability is investigated to provide solutions to this challenge and one possible solution is called Active Debris Removal (ADR). It consists of sending a spacecraft to capture a debris and reenter it to the atmosphere. Thus, the space debris ends up burning in the atmosphere, along with the ADR systems. ADR ends with the destruction of two expensive spacecrafts, i.e., the complete loss of their components, their material and of their investments.

At Luleå University of technology, we want to think further ahead by investigating concept to enable circularity in space via Creaternity Space Lab. One of those concepts is the reuse of spacecraft materials which consider space debris and spacecraft reaching their end-of-life as material resources available in space and not as “trash” to be burnt.

My research focuses on the feasibility of reusing spacecraft materials by investigating the evolution of the materials properties after a decade (or more) in space.

Collaborations with other RIT projects
Bernd Weiss, PhD student, working on “On Approaching Sustainable Spacecraft End-of-life: Reusable Hardware and Circular Economy Principles in Outer Space“.


Project contact

Margot Clauss, PhD student
Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering at Luleå University of Technology
[email protected]