The U.S. Space Force wants to clean up the garbage in orbit

Neither the aerospace industry nor government agencies have narrowed down specific methods for disposing of space junk. For example, Rogue Space Systems is developing a wasp-like spacecraft called Fred Orbot with solar panels similar to wings. It aims to pick up medium-sized space junk and remove them from oncoming satellites. With its four robotic appendages, it will float towards debris or satellites, grab it with its arms, and then gently drag it into different orbits. If it grabs a piece of space junk, it will push it into a lower orbit, eventually falling and burning in the atmosphere. Alternatively, Fred can be equipped with a small thruster or tether, which can be glued to a decommissioned spacecraft to push objects down, allowing Fred to quickly dive into his next orbital mission.

Other companies have been focusing on technologies for removing large pieces of garbage, including bus-sized rocket bodies, which generate large amounts of debris in the event of a collision. These fragments can weigh several tons, are not easy to grasp or move to new orbits, and may be too large to burn. “These objects are not there; they are rolling. Darren McKnight, a senior technical researcher at LeoLabs in Menlo Park, California, said that the company uses a radar system to monitor space junk. He and his colleagues are at work. Experimenting with the third method, usually called “instant collision avoidance.” This may involve simple things, such as spraying a cloud of powder in front of a dead spacecraft to provide enough air resistance to slow it down. Or push it gently on a different orbit. Or you can connect a small thruster and GPS receiver to it to turn it into a zombie aircraft that can move on its own-at least enough to avoid a crash.

McKnight said that no matter which method is adopted, there are so many technologies in development, and he hopes to see them used soon. “We need to actually put these known working systems into orbit. The time for patching is over,” he said.

This sentiment is reflected in a series of new international initiatives, such as Net zero space, Announced at the Paris Peace Forum on November 12 that this is an international non-profit organization that organizes this work. The Net Zero Space Declaration reads like a United Nations agreement, promising two main goals: not to create more space debris, and to start removing current debris before 2030. The orbital environment of the earth,” it said.

Jérôme Barbier, head of space, digital and economic issues at the Paris Peace Forum, said that although space agencies and industries generally recognize the issue of space junk, there is “almost no international cooperation.” However, he continued, “Space debris has no nationality. They are threatening all our assets and all services related to them, and we need to act before it is too late.”

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