CAN-RGX : Canadian Reduced Gravity Experiment
The Canadian Reduced Gravity Experiment Design Challenge (CAN-RGX) is a competition hosted by the non-profit group, SEDS-Canada (Students for the Exploration and Development of Space), for post-secondary students in Canada to design, build, and test a small experiment to be flown on board the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Falcon 20. This aircraft allows for reduced gravity experiments with the CSA where competitors will fly and test their experiment.
WHO WE ARE
SpiderSat is a sub-team of AlbertaSat that is led by current AlbertaSat members, brand new members, and current high school students! Many of our members have already participated in STEM and academic camps such as WISEST and Millenium STEM.
SpiderSat’s main goal for this experiment is to create a cost effective dry adhesive net that could be scaled up for passive catching of space debris while orbiting Earth.
The purpose of our experiment is to capture and secure a simulated 1-10 cm space debris as it moves through a theoretical orbit with a thermoplastic elastomer gecko adhesive net.
Approximately half a million objects larger than a pea orbit the Earth, of which only ~23,000 objects are larger than a baseball. A massive concentration of these minute particles out in orbit could potentially cause fatal harm to a mission.
Our team has proposed a mesh-like structure to be facilitated with gecko adhesives to safely catch and dispose of the small debris. As gecko adhesives are able to adhere in a vacuum and will not lose their adhesive properties in extreme temperatures and radiation conditions, they would be viable to be used as a net in space debris capture applications.
Why Space Junk?
While technological advances paved the way for space exploration, the satellites and rockets aged, leaving millions of pieces of space debris in Earth’s orbit, with over one million pieces one to ten centimeters in size!
Why Gecko Adhesive?
Gecko grippers, also known as gecko-inspired adhesives were originally invented for climbing-robot experiments but were taken into space in 2019 to study their functionality for space applications. A goal for the future is to use gecko adhesives to collect larger pieces of space junk, such as defunct satellites or large boosters.
A microgravity environment is needed to test the forces on the net and pieces of scrap material. If there are any forces acting on the scrap material or on the net, our team will not be able to analyze the interaction between the net and debris in all coordinate planes. This emphasizes the importance of having no other forces acting while the data is obtained to analyze how the net will interact with the debris in all degrees of freedom.