The Pentagon is Looking for Garbage Collectors in Space

KAJAL THARWANI

17th Feb'22
The Pentagon is Looking for Garbage Collectors in Space | OpenGrowth

Humans have destroyed the earth with their activities, and now are destroying space. What are you thinking? Pollution in Space? Yes!  According to research, “More than 27,000 pieces of space junk are tracked in space by the Department of Defense’s global Space Surveillance Network.” This rise in junk could be a potential danger to all human spaceflights and robotic missions. 

Someone has to take the initiative. But who? You read it in the headline. Yes, The Pentagon. Now the Pentagon has taken the initiative to clean up the space. Obviously!Not all of it. But at least the polluted region in low earth orbit. Are you thinking, how? To learn more, we need to dive into the topic. So, are you ready? Of course, you are! That’s the reason you are here. Why am I even asking? Let’s go!

 

What is Space Junk?

Space junk or space debris are pieces of machinery or debris left by humans in space. Since the 1950s, we have launched several rockets and satellites into orbit. “Junk” refers to the dead satellites or the paint chips from the rockets. 

 

Where Does Space Junk Come From?

As long as humans are launching objects into orbit, space junk is unavoidable. Many things create junk in space, like cameras, astronaut gloves, a spatula, lost tool bags, space balloons, rocket explosions, etc.

 

Space Junck

 

What is the issue?

The junk deposited in space is a serious risk to the satellites used by the Pentagon and intelligence agencies. Cleaning space is not as easy as cleaning roads and oceans. As objects travel incredibly fast, at a  speed of 17,500 mph, or about miles a second, making them violent and difficult to grab. 

Moreover, launching a spacecraft capable of flying up to a piece of space junk, grabbing it, and dragging it out of orbit so that it burns up in the atmosphere is expensive.

 

The Pentagon’s Orbital Prime 

Considering the danger and the problem, the Pentagon has launched a program called ” Orbital Prime”, under the US Space Force, that would give companies seed money to develop the technology that is needed to clean space.

In round one of the program, the companies will receive $250,000 in rewards and in the second round of the funding, they will receive awards of up to $1.5 million.

The Deputy Space Force Commander, Gen. David Thompson, said, “The Pentagon is tracking 40,000 fist-sized or larger objects in orbit. But there are at least ten times as many smaller objects that the Pentagon cannot track reliably.”

“This debris and associated congestion threaten the longer-term sustainability of the space industry.” This calls for action! He added.

 

The Contributor to Orbital Prime 

Astroscale is one of the companies that look to participate in the Space Force’s Orbital Prime program. The company is developing a spacecraft that it hopes will be able to meet a falling object in space, simulate its rotation, and then grab it like a magnet. 

Astroscale’s spokesperson, said in a statement, “ Missions are not easy. On a test this week, the company ran into a problem. His spacecraft successfully released the object into space, but there was a problem or anomaly when he tried to head towards it. For the safety of the mission, we have decided not to attempt a capture until the anomalies are resolved.”

The managing director of Astroscale also said,” We want the space economy to grow. We encourage this. And we want to make sure we are doing this for the long term and that the environment exists for future generations.”

James Lowenthal, a professor of astronomy at Smith College in Michigan, said, “Just as we rely on the government to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, we must rely on the government to resource and the global legacy of low Earth orbit.”

 

The ClearSpace Mission 

The UK and Europe have also started space cleanup work. The Swiss company ClearSpace has contracted with the European Space Agency to remove large pieces of junk and debris. Using a spacecraft with large arms that will grab the debris like a venus flytrap can solve the problem. 

Luc Piguet, co-founder, and CEO of ClearSpace said, “That’s why we are here” because we believe change is possible. And we think we can build a space industry that operates on a different model, where maintenance will be a regular part.

The other experts say the effort will grow and involve international cooperation because most of the junk was generated by the US, Russia, and China. If governments do not come together soon, things will collapse and lead to further pollution of space. 

James Lowenthal, a professor of astronomy at Smith College in Michigan, said, “Just as we rely on the government to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, we must rely on the government to resource and the global legacy of low Earth orbit.”

 

Pentagon is looking for Garbage collector

 

Conclusion 

Space junk or debris seems a great problem for coming generations for their space startups and missions. This is a more severe problem than it seems as it can badly affect satellites, astronauts, and space missions. It could be a problem for companies like SpaceX and Amazon, which are planning to launch thousands of satellites to achieve global satellite internet coverage. 

Therefore, the problem can only be solved when not one or two but every country participates with their specialization and tries to clean the debris from space. 


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An explorer who takes risks and learns from her mistakes. An aspirational content writer, studying social work. Kajal loves trying her hands in different crafts.

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