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Biomimicry for space debris mitigation



Prime contractor
Organisational Unit
Implementation progress
25 June 2020

Duration: 18 months


Through millennia of trials and errors, Mother Nature has matured technologies to a level of complexity far more advanced than the current human Engineering knowledge. The proposed idea is to investigate solutions inspired by Nature, to address challenging requirements in the frame of debris removal and, possibly, for other purposes. To our knowledge, this would be the first time such approach is proposed. Some of the possible systems to be looked at are: Abalone shell is an extremely performant impact energy absorption system. The structure consists of nano-tiles ceramics embedded in a matrix. This could be applied to protect the spacecraft against impacts. Spider silk offering an extreme resistance and very long elongations when capturing preys which are flying at full speed. Strengths higher than any man-made engineering materials can be reached.  This could be applied in the capture of space debris (e.g. nets). Fly’s attitude and landing control based on their vision and their ability to locate their targeted position with great accuracy, allowing  a sudden deceleration upon approaching this target. This could be applied in the attitude control systems of spacecraft involved in active debris removal, in particular to anchor the targets. Vision capabilities of Mantis shrimps, that can handle information in a spectrum ranging from the deep ultraviolet to the far red. This capability can find application in the detection of potential debris hazard, as well as to determine the most favourable configuration for approaching the target debris The Mantis shrimp has appendages which deploy with extreme accelerations over 10000 g and speeds over 20 m/s from a stationary start. All done with mm-scale amplitudes. This could be used to pulverise small debris in to potentially less harmful sub-micron size particles or to launch capture devices in a very short time, as part of a highly responsive defence or capture mechanism.

Contract number
OSIP Idea Id
Related OSIP Campaign
internal Campaign on Space Debris
Main application area
Space Safety
Topical cluster