Space debris is becoming an increasingly acute problem. The Space Force, the US Army’s Aerospace Division, wants to start a major collaboration with the scientific and civil community to find solutions. They point out that America is far behind, even if it undoubtedly bears some responsibility.
Last November, several spacewalks on the International Space Station were canceled due to the passage of debris. Russia’s destruction of an old satellite has created a new field of hazardous waste for the space station. In December, China criticized SpaceX, accusing Elon Musk of dangerously polluting Earth’s orbit with thousands of small satellites.
Faced with this situation, the Space Force, the US Army’s Space Service, has announced a program to clean up the space where most of the satellites are located. But the military does not intend to do this alone: spaceworksShe, the technical arm of the military division, will lead a program called Orbital Prime, which seeks proposals from private companies and academic institutions for technologies that could be used to tackle the growing problem of space debris. Orbital Prime Phase 1 proposals must be submitted by February 17th.
The army launches a tender and asks for help
General David Thompson, Space Force’s chief operating officer, addressed the private sector in a video posted to the SpaceWERX website on January 5. His message to the private sector is clear: “We need your help. Orbital Prime’s goal is to partner with innovative players in industry, academia, and research institutes to develop and apply advanced technologies and operational concepts in debris reduction and cleanup.”
The goal is to demonstrate technologies for removing debris in space in less than three years. The project is funded under the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. Companies must partner with academic or non-profit organizations. Large companies can participate, but as a subcontractor to a small company. Teams can win prizes of $250,000 for the first stage and $1.5 million for the second stage. If a team is selected to conduct a demonstration in the space, the government will fund part of the cost.
The United States last on the scene
However, this initiative was not welcomed with great enthusiasm by the civil aviation sector. Darren McKnight, senior technical researcher at LeoLabs and a member of the Space Debris Committee of the International Academy of Astronautics, pointed out that if there is one space power that isn’t doing its share of waste management, it’s America.
“I appreciate the Space Force saying, ‘Yeah, we’re concerned about debris collection. “But I can tell you that the United States lags far behind the rest of the world in this region,” McKnight said in a webcast hosted by the Center for Space Research and Policy at the University of Washington. “I find it embarrassing to hear people talk about the need to effectively remove debris and mediate disposal From the wreckage as if it would take decades to come. The European Space Agency and the Japan Space Agency are making progress in this area.”
The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded ClearSpace a $104 million contract to launch a mission to remove debris from space by 2025. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has selected Astroscale to send a spacecraft into orbit in 2023 to examine a derelict rocket, a move that would That paves the way for the task of removing debris, the specialist website reported. space news.
Darren McKnight also believes that controlling ‘traffic’ in the orbit of many of the vehicles placed there is a lower priority than managing ‘shipwrecks’ and the inactive old stuff out there. Left to its own devices. It is difficult to estimate its location and function.
“Two thirds of the potential production of debris in LEO does not come from space motion management. It comes from space debris management, and it comes from preventing large objects from colliding with other large objects,” McKnight asserts. “These are big school buses with no brakes and no driver,” McKnight said.
“There is currently no company planning to drop a 9,000-pound object to the ground.” The most realistic way to get rid of these large debris – American, Russian and even Chinese satellites in general – is to push them into space even more. It would be like a big sweep under the rug, but on a cosmic scale.
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