How can space be cleaned up? The US Space Force is on the hunt for innovations

·2-min read
Space contains about 331.03 million pieces of junk of all sizes, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

The US Space Force is expanding its program to fund innovations for space cleanup. The US military's space branch is looking for private companies to work with universities in order to develop the best solutions to clean up space.

The latest episode of Russia's anti-satellite missile tests, carried out on Monday, November 15, created debris in space and ultimately for the planet. It was a reminder of how dangerous such debris can be for space exploration and how much of this type of garbage litters space. The need to develop concrete actions and initiatives for capturing space junk has become more pressing than ever.

The US Space Force is looking to tackle the problem of space pollution head on. Two days after the anti-satellite tests, on November 17, SpaceWERX (the name of the technology arm of the US Space Force) launched a call for proposals from companies for its new "Orbital Prime" funding program, started in early November. To participate, companies will have to team up with academic or non-profit institutions.

As SpaceWERX explains, Orbital Prime aims to establish innovation research contracts to energize "the on-orbit servicing, assembly and manufacturing market" using "active debris remediation." That is, filling the gaps in space debris recovery.

The first contracts for this program, worth $250.00 each, are expected to be awarded in early 2022.

Earlier this month, on November 12, the UN and France's CNES (national center for space studies) announced the "Net Zero Space" initiative at the Paris Peace Forum, along with other actors. The goal: to achieve a "sustainable use of outer space" by 2030, outlines the website of the Paris Peace Forum. The appeal warns of the danger of space debris, outlining that it is "critical to ensure the sustainable development of both public and private space activities, to protect the integrity of existing and future objects in orbit, and to maintain equitable access to outer space for all."

Louis Bolla

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