Ever since space exploration begin in 1950s numerous rockets and satellites have been launched off into the orbit. So, begin the miasma of space scrap that envelops the earth like a second blanket of atmosphere, these encroaching e-waste particulates although easy to bring life to but pretty much difficult or nearly impossible to get rid of. The orbit is littered due to many such parts of machinery that have been left behind after they have served their purpose and many such specks of tech waste arise due to collision or anti-satellite test in orbit, which when crash together generate thousand new pieces. As per the researchers from Purdue University are test-launching a one-of-its-kind drag sail to the low-earth orbit, as an effort to clean up space debris and defunct satellites crowding the upper atmosphere.

The drag sail is one of the first attempts attacking the increasing concern over waste crowding the thermosphere. Created over a year, by a small team at Purdue, the Spinnaker3 sail (Spinnaker3's name included a  "3" because of the three-meter long carbon fiber booms that pull out a sail with an area of 194 square feet.  Spinnaker3 isn’t the first drag sail to be launched into space, but it is among the first to be large enough for deorbiting the upper stage of a launch vehicle) helps pull debris from orbit by accelerating the decaying orbits and sending them towards the upper atmosphere to safely burn up. A short animation depicting how Spinnaker3 will work:

With space exploration being considered to be expanded towards space tourism these junks could be problematic for space vehicles, including the International Space Station and other spacecraft with humans aboard like Blue Origin or SpaceX, also density from such debris may become so humongous that it could obstruct our ability to utilize weather satellites, and hence to monitor and predict weather changes caused by our own ground-based pollution. The combined mass of the junk is estimated to be around 9000 tonnes.

With a global race to launch more and more satellite into the orbit; major contributor to such space clutters are USA, Russia, China, France and India, the Earth is at present is surrounded by the exponentially growing number of “space garbage” – defund satellites, discarded rocket parts, and debris from collisions between such satellites and more.

According to NASA, only 1,700 satellites out of 4700 in the orbit at an altitude between 90kms to 3000kms around the Earth are functional. But most satellites and large space rejects take years and even decades for their orbits to decay enough to enter Earth’s atmosphere and safely burn up on re-entry.

Concerns have been raised over the possibility of these space trash colliding with functional satellites and the chance of such small collision triggering a massive chain reaction, thereby destroying Earth’s low orbit infrastructure. Cleverly, depicted in the 2013 Hollywood sci-fi flick Gravity.

Over the last 7 decades, humans have been firing off satellites and spacecraft into space, without any consideration for their sustainable disposal after their retirement. In recent years, there has been proliferating efforts made to promote sustainable space exploration.

The launch is scheduled on September 4, at 6.30 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. IST (The Firefly Alpha launch will target an orbit altitude of about 200 miles and the Spinnaker3 drag sail is capable of providing deorbit capability from orbit altitudes of 400 miles or greater) and will be livestreamed on