Space Debris Removal- U.S. Space Force Selects KMI to Develop Technology as a Small Business

in #stem9 months ago


Space Debris Removal- U.S. Space Force Selects KMI to Develop Technology as a Small Business


Space debris is a major problem. Since we first began deploying satellites into outerspace, we have been loading the heavens with debris and garbage we will need to address and clear.

Space debris comes in many forms, from small flakes of paint to gloves and larger pieces of satellites or remnants of space missions. Over 27,000 pieces of space debris are being tracked by the DOD’s Space Surveillance Network, and these objects pose a major threat to manned missions and current satellites in orbit. Since orbital debris travels at speeds up to 17,500 mph, and the size ranges from a fleck of sand to much larger, this is a major issue that is growing larger every year.

With more satellites being launched and more interest in space exploration, firms are working to develop technologies to capture space debris and neutralize it. There are currently an estimated 500,000+ pieces of space debris, and all of them are dangerous at the speed they are traveling. Even the International Space Station (ISS) takes evasive action to avoid space debris. It is just a matter of time before a disaster strikes as our planet’s orbit fills with trash, so what can we do?

Firms have been working to develop new technologies to capture and neutralize space debris. A small firm, KMI, is working with Universities to develop “adhesive arms” or “gecko arms” to capture space debris. The idea is that a satellite could be deployed into orbit and harvest space debris with adhesive arms. Universities including MIT and USC have helped KMI by providing access to testing technology and support, which helps when avoiding to duplicate efforts. KMI has been selected by SpaceWERX, a part of the Space Force to develop technologies as a small business. Like any government program, the U.S. Space Force requires businesses to develop support technologies, and SpaceWERX is selecting companies including KMI to support their efforts.

Space debris-removal technology is going to be key as we move towards exploration and satellite efforts. Debris poses a threat to life and investment, and the scope of the issue is immense. Thankfully, new space programs are working to reduce their impact on the heavens by having written plans to minimize debris during operations. Much like the cleanup efforts after the Industrial Revolution, we are responsible for removing waste from orbit, and KMI’s new technology partnerships are key for future developments. The selection process SpaceWERX is using to select businesses who are developing technologies for support is interesting, and worth watching.

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