Canada Seeks Proposals on Tracking & De-orbiting Space Debris

Department of National Defence & Canadian Armed Forces

Challenged Details

Collision Course – Tracking and De-orbiting Space Debris
Full Tender

Challenge Statement

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) are looking for viable and cost-effective solutions for tracking and de-orbiting space debris in order to reduce the collision threat for orbiting space systems.

Background and Context

While “space debris” technically includes asteroids, comets and meteoroids, this challenge refers specifically to orbit debris, space junk, space waste, space trash, space litter or space garbage, as well as fragments from their disintegration and collisions. Space surveillance networks regularly track about 22,300 debris objects in earth orbits, totaling more than 8,400 tonnes, which includes 1,950 operational satellites. As of January 2019, the total number of debris objects that are estimated by statistical models to be in earth orbits are 34,000 (greater than 10 cm); 900,000 objects (1 cm to 10 cm); and 128 million objects (1 mm to 1 cm)1.

When in Earth orbits, space debris pose a risk of collision with space vehicles, humans, and even with other debris. The hazards posed by debris collisions include erosion to hulls, solar panels and optics; fragmentation leading to rapid increases in the total population of space debris; total loss of a vehicle and/or an asset; and major injury and/or loss of human life. Space debris will grow as the number of human-made objects in Earth orbits increase over time.

There are no operational debris removal capabilities in use, globally, and existing prototypes lack important capabilities and have proven ineffective. For instance, there is a need to capture and deorbit multiple pieces of debris per clean-up effort or the capability becomes extremely expensive; as well, capabilities are needed to track and capture space debris smaller than 10cm or larger than the capturing vehicle (e.g., rocket bodies).

Desired Outcomes

The DND/CAF is looking for innovative space debris solutions for one or more of the following:

  • Reliable and robust solutions for tracking space debris below the 10cm diameter size;
  • Concepts, designs or prototypes for deorbiting multiple pieces of debris of any size.

Maximum Funding and Performance Period

Multiple contracts could result from this Challenge.

The individual maximum contract funding available under Competitive Projects – Component 1a is up to $200,000 CAD [$170,412 USD] (excluding applicable taxes) for a maximum performance period of up to 6 months.

This disclosure is made in good faith and does not commit Canada to contract for the total approximate funding.

ISRO to Create Space Situational Awareness Center

BENGALURU, India (ISRO PR) — Space Situational Awareness & Management (SSAM) has become an internationally significant area due to the ever growing man made space debris population and the increased collision threat with operational spacecraft.

ISRO Chairman K Sivan laid the foundation stone for Space Situational Awareness Control Centre at Peenya, Bengaluru on 2nd August, which is an important milestone in the progress of ISRO.

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Astroscale Advances Environmentally Sustainable Use of Space through ESA / OneWeb Sunrise Project

End-of-Life Service by Astroscale demonstrator (ELSA-d) satellite. (Credit: Astroscale UK Ltd)

HARWELL, UK (Astroscale PR) – Astroscale Ltd. (“Astroscale”), the market-leader in developing a space debris removal service to secure long-term orbital sustainability, has been awarded a contract under the Sunrise Project, a Public-Private Partnership led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and OneWeb, a global communications company on a mission to connect the unconnected through a global satellite constellation.

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NIAC Award: Crosscutting High Apogee Refueling Orbital Navigator for Active Debris Removal

Crosscutting High Apogee Refueling Orbital Navigator (CHARON) for active debris removal. (Credit: John Slough)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Crosscutting High Apogee Refueling Orbital Navigator (CHARON) for Active Debris Removal
John Slough
MSNW LLC

As of January 2018 an estimated 8,100 tons of space debris has accumulated in low Earth orbit consisting of spent rocket bodies, mission-related debris, and collision fragments. The vast majority of these objects are too small to detect with radar systems, but there are over 29,000 known objects larger than 10 cm. Impacts between these objects and operating missions have damaged costly equipment, required expensive collision avoidance maneuvers, and endangered the lives of astronauts on the international space station.

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Astroscale Raises $30 Million Series D Round, Opens U.S. Office

End-of-Life Service by Astroscale demonstrator (ELSA-d) satellite. (Credit: Astroscale UK Ltd)

DENVER, April 10, 2019 (Astroscale PR) – Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market-leader in developing a space debris removal service to secure long-term orbital sustainability, today announced the opening of a new office in Denver, Colorado (“Astroscale U.S.”), adding a strategic United States base to already established entities in Singapore, Japan and the United Kingdom. In concert with the expansion of its global presence, Astroscale has solidified its leadership team and secured an additional US $30 million in an extension of its Series D investment round. The funding extension round brings the total Series D amount to US $80 million and total capital raised to US $132 million.

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Amazon Constellation Sends Number of Planned Communications Satellites Soaring Above 20,000

F6 satellite (Credit: OneWeb)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has jumped into a crowded field of companies seeking to provide high-speed broadband, data and other communications services to the entire globe.

Amazon’s Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites brings the total number of spacecraft in the 16 announced systems to 20,241 spacecraft. The competition includes SpaceX, Boeing, Telesat, SES and government-backed companies in China and Russia.

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Indian Officials Dismiss NASA’s Concern Over Debris from ASAT Test

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Indian officials are dismissing concerns expressed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine about debris in low Earth orbit from an Indian anti-satellite (ASAT) test that could threaten the International Space Station (ISS) and other spacecraft.

The Hindustan Times reports that an official from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as downplaying the dangers.

The DRDO chief and a spokesperson did not comment. An official of the agency, while asking not to be named, said the debris will disappear in 45 days. “The test was calibrated keeping in mind the debris issue. The world should know that debris from two Chinese tests is still floating whereas those created by the Indian test will disappear,” he added.

An Indian expert said that India conducted the anti-satellite test responsibly but agreed it could have raised risks for the ISS. “I would say India conducted the test responsibly. At 300km, the altitude is lower than that of the ISS and most of the other satellites and the debris will come back to the atmosphere of the earth eventually. That said, there is a possibility that some debris might enter the apogee of the space station; the risk of collision increases as it does with any object sent to space ,” said Rajeswari Rajagopalan, head of nuclear and space initiative, Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi hailed the test, saying it made India a space power.

During a NASA all-hands meeting on Monday, Bridenstine said the test created 400 pieces of debris, including 24 that went above the apogee of the International Space Station (ISS).

“That is a terrible, terrible thing, to create an event that sends debris into an apogee that goes above the International Space Station,” he said. “And that kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight. It’s unacceptable, and NASA needs to be very clear about what its impact to us is….

“While the risk went up 44 percent, our astronauts are still safe. The International Space Station is still safe. If we need to maneuver it, we will. The probability of that, I think, is low,” Bridenstine added.

The space station has maneuvered on many occasions to avoid potential debris strikes.

Bridenstine expressed concerns that the Indian ASAT test will inspire other nations to conduct similar ones, thus increasing the debris in orbit.











FCC Publishes Draft Debris Mitigation Rules

Computer generated image showing the debris cloud around Earth.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Citing new satellite constellations that plan to collectively launch thousands of new satellites into Earth orbit, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided to update its regulations on space debris for the first time in 15 years.

“Proposed deployments of large satellite constellations in the intensely used LEO region, along with other satellites deployed in the LEO region, will have the potential to increase the risk of debris-generating events,” the FCC said in a notice in the Federal Register. “New satellite and deployment technologies currently in use and under development also may increase the number of potential debris-generating events, in the absence of improved debris mitigation practices.”

[View Full FCC Notice (PDF)]

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There She Floats! RemoveDEBRIS Satellite Successfully Test Harpoon in Orbit

SURREY, UK (University of Surrey PR) — The RemoveDEBRIS satellite, one of the world’s first attempts to address the build-up of dangerous space debris, has successfully used its on-board harpoon-capture system in orbit.

The Airbus Stevenage designed harpoon featured a 1.5 metre boom deployed from the main RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft with a piece of satellite panel on the end. The harpoon was fired at 20 metres/sec to penetrate the target and demonstrate the ability of a harpoon to capture debris.

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Thales Radar System Can Help Satellites Avoid Space Debris

SMART-L Multi-Mission long-distance radar (Credit: Thales)

PARIS (Thales PR) — More powerful and accurate, Earth Observation satellites feature major breakthrough technologies contributing to a better understanding of our planet, our oceans, our weather conditions… in a nutshell, our global environment. Earth Observation satellites, whether using radar or optical payloads, can also be used for defense uses, in particular for applications linked to maritime security or border surveillance. Moreover, powerful telecommunications satellites can offer High Speed Internet in certain coverage zones, directly contributing to bridge the digital divide, in particular in isolated areas.

Yet that only will be possible if they can find space in that space—a place to park in orbit that will not be vulnerable to the dangers of increasing space debris.

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FCC Launches Review of Satellite Orbital Debris Mitigation Rules

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.

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NASA ODPO’s Large Constellation Study

J.-C. LIOU, M. MATNEY, A. VAVRIN, A. MANIS, AND D. GATES

In recent years, several commercial companies have proposed telecommunications constellations consisting of hundreds to thousands of 100-to-300-kg class spacecraft in low Earth orbit (LEO, the region below 2000-km altitude). If deployed, such large constellations (LCs) will dramatically change the landscape of satellite operations in LEO. Fig. 1 shows the current mass distribution in LEO. The top blue histogram shows the total and the three curves below show a breakdown by object type (spacecraft, rocket bodies, or other). The mass distribution is dominated by spacecraft and upper stages (i.e., rocket bodies). The yellow bars from 1100 km to 1300 km altitudes show the notional mass distribution from 8000 150 kg LC spacecraft or, equivalently, 4000 300 kg LC spacecraft. From the large amount of mass involved, it is clear that the deployment, operations, and frequent de-orbit and replenishment of the proposed LCs could significantly contribute to the existing orbital debris problem.

Figure 1. Mass distribution in the current LEO environment. The blue histogram is the total and the population breakdown is shown in red (rocket bodies), green (spacecraft), and black (others). The yellow bars between 1100 km and 1300 km shows the notional mass distribution from 8000 150 kg spacecraft or, equivalently, 4000 300 kg spacecraft.

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