NASA Increases Priority for Orbital Debris Removal

NASA May Move Orbital Debris Mitigation Off Back Burner
Space News

NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office expects to begin active work on how to remove debris in orbit on the strength of the new U.S. National Space Policy, according to the office’s chief scientist.


Nicholas L. Johnson said the office, which assembles data from the U.S. Air Force-run Space Surveillance Network, has been working on these issues for years, but only on an informal basis, with few resources and no formal mandate.

That changed on June 28, when President Barack Obama issued an updated space policy that specifically orders NASA and the U.S. Defense Department to “pursue research and development of technologies and techniques … to mitigate and remove on-orbit debris.”

Attending the 38th Congress of the Committee on Space Research (Cospar) here July 18-25, Johnson said it is too early to tell exactly how the new policy will be transformed into programs and budgets. But the specificity of the wording, he said, gives reason to conclude that NASA will be able to increase its efforts.

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