Around the planet Earth orbit the Moon, two space stations, thousands of space satellites and, above all, a lot (but a lot) of space debris. A serious problem for us, since this debris not only runs the risk of falling to Earth at any given moment, but can also collide with functioning satellites.
Now, one company wants to make it as easy as possible to collect space debris, an arduous and expensive task so far. NASA has awarded space company TransAstra an $850,000 contract to build a special type of inflatable bag that could be used to collect space debris and recycle it later.
Originally, the bag was created for the Asteroid Redirect Mission to collect a multi-ton rock from a near-Earth asteroid. Some time later, TransAstra came up with the idea of reusing this technology to collect and clean up the space debris around us.
To date, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Global Space Surveillance Network tracks more than 27,000 pieces of space debris orbiting our planet. That’s not counting the countless smaller pieces floating undetected in space.
When ready, TransAstra will deploy its capture bag, designed to inflate and collect various pieces of space debris, into orbit while attached to a space tug called the Worker Bee. After collection, the bag would transport all the space debris it has been storing to an orbital recycling facility known as the ThinkPlatform.
“Repeated trips to collect orbital debris and transport it to Earth’s atmosphere for disposal require a significant amount of propellant and time,” said Nicole Shumaker, TransAstra’s vice president of strategic partnerships.
“In-space recycling stations solve this problem and transform what was once a liability into an asset that not only mitigates orbital debris, but opens up new possibilities for manufacturing and construction in space.”
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