In recent years more and more satelites reach their destination in space and serve their purpouse. Sometimes unfortunately something brakes and it may no longer be used as intended. Recently this happened to a satelite called WorldView-4 owned by Maxar. It provided images of the Earth for example for Google Maps and generated $85 million in revenue. Due to a gyroscope failure it is no longer able to collect data and function properly.
But now there might be a chance for satelites to stay in space and be repared. A company called Astroscale with a mission to clean up space debris. They want to bring back to Earth all satelites that are malfunctioning or not in use anymore to make space around our planet safer and less polluted with space junk. But there is a better idea by Altius Space Machines, what they want to do is selling a service of fixing satelites without dragging then back to Earth. Alitus want to send a robotic satelite to space, that would be capable of grabing the repairing kit when necessary and than carry the fixing proccess on a broken unit. They want to use some kind of grabbing device, possibly magnets, to stabilize while repairing. This however creates some issues.
The docking would need to be done very delicately so that none of the components are damaged, when you add the fact that satelites are traveling at the speed of 17,000 miles per hour or more it makes quite a difficult job to be done remotely or by a autonomous robot. There are no sensors and cameras that would suite the job. Another problem is that satelites were and are built without any docking possibilities, even with the technology to repair such a unit it may be impossible, or perhaps new components will be mounted on the outside of the satelite. Altius not only wants to repair broken satelites but also maintain and service ones that are functional, that will mean for example refueling.
As for now the future of WorldView-4 does not look bright, it will be kept in space but now it serves no purpose. This will of course mean losses for Maxar but getting it back to Earth is even more expensive.
This whole situation shows us how the space around our planet will be more and more poolluted with space debris. It gets crowded up there and if we don’t find any way to clearn that up we might end with a giant metal sphere around Earth.