Space Trash is a serious problem. Its mention may induce a chuckle from some, but space trash is indeed no laughing matter. The current estimates provided by NASA regarding the total amount of space debris in Earth-orbit totals 17.6 million pounds or 26,000 pieces satellites, rocks, metal, and other hazardous materials. This debris can cause significant damage to satellites and can be fatal to astronauts. Space trash can also fall to Earth.
From the US government’s perspective, space trash is a threat to national security. Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Space and Missiles Systems Center (SMSC), said, “Space debris is already a national security space issue. You’ve probably heard Department of Defense leaders talk about space not only being contested, but also congested.” With the formation of the Space Force and the completion of the Space Fence, a digital tracking mechanism capable of tracking items 10cm and larger, the DoD is investing in cleaning up space debris.
Leaders of the Space Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office (SRCO) and Space and Missiles Systems Center (SMSC) said during an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics event that they are interested in ways the commercial sector can help the military with junk floating around the Earth’s orbit. “I anticipate that in the commercial sector, and in the national security space sector, that orbital debris mitigation will become a huge effort going into the future,” said Lt. Thompson.
Although the list of civilian contractors capable of performing the requirement is currently small, the prospect of profits is space will undoubtedly drive entrepreneurs to look up. After all, the sky is no longer the limit!
Author: Paul McVeigh