Skyrora, an Edinburgh-based rocket firm has recently issued a challenge called "Finding Prospero," to find a way to retrieve the Prospero satellite.

According to Report Door, the mission of Prospero, the first and only United Kingdom spacecraft to be launched on a British rocket in 1971 from Australia, was to study the space environment.

The spacecraft is evidently now obsolete although it still circles the globe on an elliptical orbit, roughly 1,000 kilometers up.

Skyrora, which will soon begin to send up rockets from Scotland, considers the satellite as an essential piece of UK space heritage. The firm has already retrieved part of the Black Arrow vehicle that positioned Prospero in orbit.

This then fell back to Australia in the course of the mission where for a decade, it suffered in the Outback until the company had it shipped home and put on exhibition.

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Science Times - 'Finding Prospero': Skyrora Launches Challenge to Find the Best Way to Retrieve This 1st and Only UK Spacecraft
(Photo : Geni on Wikimedia Commons)
Photo of the Prospero X-3 satellite flight spare in London's Science Museum

Quest for New Ideas

Now, the company is in a quest for ideas as to how best to approach and grab hold of the 66-kilogram Prospero. It might be impossible to bring it all the way home through the atmosphere intact and it would be quite challenging.

For beginners, it would need a shield from the heat of re-entry, although, at the very least, just de-orbiting what is currently a piece of junk would be a statement of commitment of Britain to space's sustainable use.

Orbits on top of the Earth are turning cluttered with old hardware, which risks colliding with, and destroying, such operationally useful spacecraft that offer essential services like Earth observation, meteorology, and telecommunications.

Head of government affairs of Skyrora, Alan Thompson said, this is a challenge "to ourselves, to the space industry in the UK."

Thompson also said, eventually, they would love to recover Prospero, as described in the Next Spaceflight site, and bring it all the way down, although they recognize that would be quite difficult.

The point here though, he said in a BBC News report, is to highlight industry principles of responsibility and sustainability.

Pursuing Activities, the Green Way Possible

A similar RocketNews report said Skyrora is determined to carry out activities as green way as possible. Even though burning a carbon-based fuel, kerosene in its rockets, it will be constructed from recycled plastic.

It wants the top section too, on the third stage, of its orbital vehicle to not position satellites in orbit, although not capable of taking out spacecraft as well.

It has been busy testing a "space tug" that would do just this kind of task. According to the former UK space minister, Lord Willetts said, the challenge of taking out space debris and either knocking it into the atmosphere in order for it to burn up or returning it to this planet, is one of the spaces of the most essential and topical challenges has.

'Finding Prospero'

For the retrieval of Prospero, one would need to locate it first. Even though the satellite is not communicating with Earth anymore, its orbit is known, Ralph Dinsley, from space surveillance experts Northern Space & Security Ltd. said.

It, he continued, is an elliptical orbit around the Earth, coming as close as roughly 533 kilometers and going out as far as approximately 1,300 kilometers.

"Not only is Prospero up there," explained Dinsley, although part of its body that put it there is up there, too. Skyrora's Finding Prospero challenge, he elaborated is all about applying inspiration to what is needed to be done for the future.

Related information about Prospero is shown on HistoryPod's YouTube video below:

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