WASHINGTON, November 15, 2018 (FCC PR) — The Federal Communications Commission today initiated a comprehensive review of its orbital debris mitigation rules. [Download proposed rules here.]
Orbital debris, also known as space debris, consists of a variety of objects, including non-functional satellites, that are orbiting the Earth. Debris can pose a risk to operations in Earth orbit, including satellites and manned spacecraft, and in some instances, pieces of debris falling back to Earth can pose a risk to persons and property on the surface of the Earth.
The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at two Phase I awards focused on advanced remote sensing and orbital debris.
Rotary Motion Extended Array Synthesis (R-MXAS) John Kendra Leidos, Inc.
On-Orbit, Collision-Free Mapping of Small Orbital Debris Christine Hartzell University of Maryland, College Park
Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
LONDON (Astroscale/SSTL PR) — ASTROSCALE PTE. LTD. (ASTROSCALE) and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to pursue joint opportunities in areas of innovative on-orbit technologies and missions designed to safeguard the orbital environment for future generations.
ASTROSCALE and SSTL have agreed to long-term strategic cooperation that further positions the companies to compete globally in the growing small satellite and orbital debris removal markets. Together the companies will seek to identify ambitious debris removal projects and joint offerings for competitive small satellite missions in Japan.
TOKYO (Jaxa PR) — ASTROSCALE Japan Inc. (hereinafter referred to as “ASTROSCALE”) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency signed a joint research agreement (“the agreement”) regarding the removal of space debris.
Under the terms of the agreement, ASTROSCALE will have access to JAXA’s technologies that examine the methods to approach and capture space debris. The technologies will facilitate ASTROSCALE’s development of ELSA-d, a technology demonstration satellite scheduled to be launched in the first half of 2019. ASTROSCALE and JAXA will also work together to validate the imagery of simulated debris obtained through the ELSA-d on-orbit mission. JAXA will not take direct part in the development, launch, or operation of ELSA-d, but will be involved in the research and development of relevant component technologies.
It is estimated that more than 750,000 pieces of space debris over a centimeter in size are currently in orbit, some of which are the result of breakups and collisions of spacecraft. As the continuously rising debris population poses an immediate threat to the orbital environment, taking countermeasures is urgently needed.
JAXA, in cooperation with universities and the private sector, will further establish the technology to eliminate space debris. Through this endeavor, JAXA hopes to protect the space environment and realize sustainable utilization of space.
JAXA has published this Q&A interview with Michiru Nishida, a Japanese Foreign Affairs official who works on space debris debris issues.
— In light of the fact that the space debris situation is becoming more serious, what international agreements have been made, if any?
In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines drafted by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). This is a “soft law” that aims to limit the generation of new space debris. A soft law is not legally binding – member states are left to make efforts on their own initiative. The guidelines specify, among other things, that rockets and satellites should be designed to produce no debris, and that satellites in low Earth orbit should re-enter the atmosphere within 25 years of ending their mission.
The Japanese space agency JAXA has published the following Q&A with Nobu Okada, founder and CEO of ASTROSCALE PTE. The company is focused on cleaning up orbital debris.
— It’s been said that you are the first private enterprise in the to attempt to clean up space debris.
Our mission is to secure long-term spaceflight safely by solving space debris issues. To achieve this, ASTROSCALE will extend its business model to a debris removing technology after gaining an understanding of the present space environment. As our first step, we investigate how much space debris exist in outer space. The size of space debris varies, and it is important to ascertain its density etc.
DARMSTADT, Germany (ESA PR) — With more than 750 000 pieces of dangerous debris now orbiting Earth, the urgent need for coordinated international action to ensure the long-term sustainability of spaceflight is a major finding from Europe’s largest-ever conference on space debris.
TOULOUSE, France — Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second largest space company, will lead the project TeSeR (Technology for Self-Removal of Spacecraft) team to develop technology to reduce the risk of spacecraft colliding with debris in space.
Together with its ten European partners, the company will develop a prototype for a cost-efficient and highly reliable module to ensure that future spacecraft don’t present a collision risk once they reach the end of their nominal operational lifetimes or suffer an in-service failure. The module may also function as a removal back-up in the case of a loss of control over a spacecraft.
TOKYO (RIKEN PR) — An international team of scientists have put forward a blueprint for a purely space-based system to solve the growing problem of space debris. The proposal, published in Acta Astronautica, combines a super-wide field-of-view telescope, developed by RIKEN’s EUSO team, which will be used to detect objects, and a recently developed high-efficiency laser system, the CAN laser that was presented in Nature Photonics in 2013, that will be used to track space debris and remove it from orbit.
Space debris, which is continuously accumulating as a result of human space activities, consists of artificial objects orbiting the earth. The number of objects nearly doubled from 2000 to 2014 and they have become a major obstacle to space development. The total mass of space debris is calculated to be about 3,000 tons. It consists of derelict satellites, rocket bodies and parts, and small fragments produced by collisions between debris.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (UMD PR) — The University of Maryland has announced the establishment of the Center for Orbital Debris Education and Research (CODER) to address critical issues in orbiting space debris and serve as a hub for academic, industry and government research collaboration.
“CODER is the first academically led center established to address the full range of issues surrounding the orbital debris problem,” said founding faculty member and Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering Raymond Sedwick. “Most existing organizations focus on just one aspect of the problem—tracking, modeling, remediation, mitigation, policy, etc.—but CODER will serve as a research collective to provide expertise in all of these areas.”
The decaying Russian space program continues to cause serious problems for the world:
A Russian Breeze M rocket stage, left with loaded fuel tanks after an August launch failure, exploded in orbit Oct. 16, raising concerns of the U.S. military, NASA and global satellite operators on the lookout for collision threats from hundreds of new space debris fragments.
12 September 2012 (ESA PR) — ESA will boost European industrial expertise by developing a new radar as part of the Agency’s Space Situational Awareness programme. The radar will test future debris monitoring techniques, helping European satellite operators avoid space hazards and increase safety in Earth orbit.
NRC PR – WASHINGTON – Although NASA’s meteoroid and orbital debris programs have responsibly used their resources, the agency’s management structure has not kept pace with increasing hazards posed by abandoned equipment, spent rocket bodies, and other debris orbiting the Earth, says a new report by the National Research Council. NASA should develop a formal strategic plan to better allocate resources devoted to the management of orbital debris. In addition, removal of debris from the space environment or other actions to mitigate risks may be necessary.
The complexity and severity of the orbital debris environment combined with decreased funding and increased responsibilities have put new pressures on NASA, according to the report. Some scenarios generated by the agency’s meteoroid and orbital debris models show that debris has reached a “tipping point,” with enough currently in orbit to continually collide and create even more debris, raising the risk of spacecraft failures, the report notes. In addition, collisions with debris have disabled and even destroyed satellites in the past; a recent near-miss of the International Space Station underscores the value in monitoring and tracking orbital debris as precisely as possible.