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UK Leading in Space Debris Removal
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UK companies are leading the way in space debris removal technology. According to information currently available, there are over 100 million pieces of space debris that are persistent threats to space operations. Space debris has been ignored for years, and is the result of waste from the space industry including launches, satellites and exploratory operations. The speed at which space debris travels and the increasing value of the assets being deployed into space by governments and private industry makes space debris removal worthy of substantial note and investment.
Companies including ClearSpace and Astroscale have received funding to develop technologies that will be deployed into orbit for the purpose of orbital debris capture and removal. Both companies have received 4 million pounds, and will receive up to 15 million pounds from the UK Space Agency to fully develop their programs. Space debris removal is an involved process, and involves the use of systems with arms, nets and lasers that can capture and remove items for orbit. The development and refinement of this technology is key to the future of the space industry.
Meanwhile, NASA and the United States Government have stepped up their efforts to address space debris. With companies including SpaceX proposing increasing space voyages and satellite deployment and the International Space Station (ISS) having to take emergency action to avoid space debris, this issue is being taken seriously. Recently, a bill was introduced into Congress under the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation called the Orbital Sustainability Act that is focused on removing junk from orbit. In addition, future satellite and future space exploration companies must make plans to reduce the amount of junk they will produce. Future space companies and firms will contract with companies like ClearSpace to minimize their waste.
I have written before about the dangers of space debris for existing satellites and space travelers. Shielding is not adequate to fully protect existing space infrastructure and travelers alike.
Space has become a place of technological development, telecommunications infrastructure and exploration. In order to keep it a viable location for such endeavors, we need to ensure that governments and companies work together to develop technologies to remove space junk from orbit. The risk of being struck by objects traveling thousands of miles an hour is too great to ignore the threat.
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