The U.S. Space Force Wants to Clean Up Junk in Orbit

Neither the space industry nor the government institutions have yet been exposed to a particular approach to space waste. For example, Rogue Space Systems created a wasp -like spacecraft called Fred Orbot, with solar panels resembling wings. It is designed to take medium-sized pieces of waste into space and divert them to future satellites. With its four robotic appendages, it floats toward debris or satellites, grabs it in its arms, and slowly drags it into another orbit. If it picks up a piece of trash in space, push it into lower orbit, so that it eventually falls and burns into the atmosphere. Alternatively, Fred could be equipped with small thrusters or tethers that could attach to an obsolete spacecraft to push the object downward, allowing Fred to quickly fly toward the next orbital task. .

Other companies are focusing on technologies to remove larger pieces of waste, including bus -sized rocket bodies that, in the event of a collision, can generate a lot of debris. These debris can weigh tons, are not easily retrieved or moved to a new orbit, and can be too large to burn. “These things don’t sit there; they were tumbling. You have a very difficult choreography for the rendezvous, ”said Darren McKnight, senior technical associate at LeoLabs, a Menlo Park, California-based company that monitors space waste with systems. radar.He and his colleagues are experimenting with a third method, often called “time collision avoidance.” This may involve attaching thrusters and a GPS receiver to a dead body. satellite, to make it a kind of zombie craft, that can move on its own — at least enough to avoid crashing.Or something as simple as a puff of powder in front of a dead spacecraft can provide sufficient air resistance to slow it down or slightly push it into another direction.

Whatever the approach, McKnight said, with so many technologies in progress, he wants to see them available sooner rather than later. “We need to put these systems that are known to operate in orbit. The time of waste is over,” he said.

This sentiment is reflected in a series of new international initiatives, such as Net Zero Space, was announced on November 12 at the Paris Peace Forum, an international nonprofit group organizing the effort. The Net Zero Space declaration reads like a United Nations agreement, with a commitment to two main objectives: Don’t create more space debris, and start removing current debris by 2030. .The orbital environment of the Earth, ”it says.

Despite the widespread recognition of the space waste problem among space agencies and industry, “there is very little international cooperation,” said Jérôme Barbier, head of space, digital and economic issues in Paris. Peace Forum. However, he continued, “the space debris has no nationality. They threaten all our assets and all services related to them, and we must act before it is too late.

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