Future Trillion Dollar ‘Space Economy’ Threatened by Debris, WVU Researcher Says

Piyush Mehta has earned the prestigious CAREER award for his research in upper atmosphere variability (Credit: WVU/Paige Nesbit)

MORGANTOWN, W.V. (West Virginia University PR) — The space economy is on track to be valued at a trillion dollars by the end of 2030, according to Piyush Mehta, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at West Virginia University. Yet space assets–equipment that is placed in space such as navigation, weather and communication satellites that serve our society daily–are threatened by space debris. 

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RKS to Use Photonic Technologies to Control Space Debris

Location of the 24,000 debris larger than 10 cm in low orbit in 2020. (Credits: NASA)

Translated from Russian by Google Translate

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — To control near-earth space and observe artificial objects in near-earth orbit, specialists of Russian Space Systems (RKS, part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) propose to use the latest photonic technologies and original methods of ground processing of optical information. The corresponding system for monitoring “space debris” was developed and patented by the RKS to solve one of the most urgent tasks today – cleaning the orbit from exhausted artificial Earth satellites, various space objects and their fragments.

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COMSPOC’s Latest Analyses of the Russian ASAT Event

Fig. 3: Depiction of spread velocity vectors for ASAT-generated debris fragments based upon SSN-tracked orbits. (Credit: COMSPOC)

EXTON, Pa. (COMSPOC PR) — Six weeks have elapsed since the Russian ASAT test occurred.  Previous posts by COMSPOC’s CSSI and others have examined the space objects currently tracked, how many of those have reentered, and why there might be slightly fewer fragments than can sometimes accompany such ASAT tests.  Yet there are some critical questions that remain: Specifically, which satellites are placed at greatest risk, where can the debris fragments go in the short-term based upon the velocities they experienced, how much will collision probabilities (and therefore spacecraft operator flight safety workloads) increase in the long-term, and how long will such fragments remain in orbit.  In this blog, we set out to answer all of those questions based on the latest published data.

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OSTP Organizes Series of Listening Sessions on Orbital Debris

In 2009, the defunct Cosmos 2251 satellite and the Iridium 33 satellite collided in Earth’s orbit. A Livermore visualization shows the orbits of the two satellites prior to the collision among the thousands of other satellites in low-Earth orbit. The collision occurred where the two orbital paths cross near the North Pole. (Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Office of Science and Technology Policy Announcement

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is organizing a series of virtual listening sessions to hear about ideas, issues, and potential solutions related to the problem of orbital debris from members of the public who have an interest or stake in orbital debris research and development. Perspectives gathered during the virtual listening sessions will inform the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Orbital Debris Research and Development Interagency Working Group (ODRAD IWG) as it develops a government-wide orbital debris implementation plan, examining R&D activities as well as other considerations such as policy levers, international engagements, and other ideas outside of R&D solutions that may help build a cohesive implementation strategy. The implementation plan is a continuation of work done for the National Orbital Debris Research and Development Plan (January 2021), which was a response to Space Policy Directive—3 (June 2018), directing the United States to lead the management of traffic and mitigate the effects of debris in space.

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Virgin Orbit Delays Next Launch Until After Merger Vote

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Orbit has delayed its next satellite launch, originally set for Wednesday, Dec. 22, to next month. The launch will come after shareholders of NextGen Acquisition Corp. II vote on Dec. 28 on whether to merge with Richard Branson’s launch services provider.

The merger with the special purpose acquisition company would allow Virgin Orbit to go public on Nasdaq under its own name. The deal will provide $483 million in capital to allow the company to grow.

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Surrey Satellite to Lead UK Space Agency Project to Study Active De-orbit of Space Debris

Novel technology will be required for these ambitious steps, which are proposed as part of the new ‘Protect’ Accelerator, one of three currently being defined to help shape Europe’s future in space. (Credit: ESA)

The LEOPARD (Low Earth Orbit Pursuit for Active Debris Removal) study will define concepts for de-orbiting 2 uncooperative UK space assets from low earth orbit

GUILDFORD, UK (Surrey Satellite PR) — Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has been selected to lead a UK Space Agency study to define the mission requirements for a complex mission to de-orbit two non-operational space debris targets. SSTL is a world-leader in the manufacture and in-orbit operation of small satellites, and has valuable experience in two previous Active Debris Removal (ADR) demonstration missions; RemoveDEBRIS, which concluded a series of debris retrieval demonstrations in January 2019, and Astroscale’s 2021 ELSA-d mission for which SSTL supplied the Client “target” satellite.

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Virgin Orbit Set to Launch on Dec. 22

LauncherOne operated in powered flight for only seconds before an anomaly shut it down after being dropped from the Cosmic Girl Boeing 747. (Credit; Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Orbit is planning to launch five satellites using its LauncherOne rocket on Dec. 22, according to a U.S. Coast Guard Notice to Mariners.

LauncherOne will be dropped by the Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl over the Pacific Ocean near the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. The launch window will last from 2-5 p.m. PST, the notice said. Backup launch dates are Dec. 23 and January 8-10 from 2:15-5 p.m.

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Committee Leaders Question Biden Administration’s Efforts to Address Space Debris Issues

The scales of the space debris problem (Credit: ESA)

WASHINGTON (Senate Commerce Committee PR) – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., ranking member and chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, along with Sens. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., ranking member and chair of the Subcommittee on Space and Science, today sent a letter requesting that Vice President Kamala Harris prioritize space debris issues in her role as chair of the National Space Council. The Senators also sent a letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to inquire about the department’s outer space-related efforts following Russia’s destructive anti-satellite test two weeks ago.    

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When Debris Disaster Strikes in Earth Orbit

Credit: ESA

In brief

PARIS (ESA PR) — In 2021 so far, some 2467 new objects large enough to be tracked have been added to world catalogues of orbital objects, out of which 1493 are new satellites and the rest are debris. While new objects are added, others are dragged down to Earth by the atmosphere where they safely burn up, resulting in a net increase of at least 1387 trackable objects between 2020 and 2021.

In addition, an estimated 1500 new objects – an increase of about 5% with respect to the total population – were added just this week, meaning the risk to missions must be reassessed.

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ESA’s Solar Orbiter to Make Agency’s Riskiest Flyby

Artist’s impression of Solar Orbiter making a flyby at Earth. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

In brief

PARIS (ESA PR) — The chance that ESA’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft will encounter space debris during its upcoming Earth flyby is very, very low. However, the risk is not zero and is greater than any other flyby ESA has performed. That there is this risk at all highlights the mess we’ve made of space – and why we need to take action to clean up after ourselves.

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Astroscale Closes Its Largest Funding Round to Date, Bringing Total Capital Raised to U.S. $300 Million

Additional U.S. $109 million in capital will accelerate on-orbit services technology development, facility expansion and global hiring.

TOKYO, Nov. 25, 2021 (Astroscale PR) – Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market leader in satellite servicing and long-term orbital sustainability across all orbits, today announced it closed its Series F round with additional funding of U.S. $109 million from a group of new investors led by THE FUND Limited Partnership in Japan, with participation from international investors including Seraphim Space Investment Trust plc (“Seraphim Space”) in the United Kingdom and DNCA Invest Beyond Global Leaders, a sub-fund of the umbrella structured fund “DNCA Invest” incorporated under the laws of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, managed by DNCA Finance, a Limited Partnership in France. This is the largest funding round in the company’s history and brings the total amount raised to U.S. $300 million, affirming investors’ confidence in the rapidly expanding on-orbit servicing market.

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Expert on Space Junk: When Spacecraft Explode, Answers May be in the Debris Left Behind

Carolin Frueh, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics, enjoys solving math problems that just keep getting harder the more that she discovers about how space junk behaves. (Purdue University photo/Rebecca McElhoe)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Purdue University PR) — Much of the space junk orbiting Earth won’t clean up itself – or tell you how it got there.

Purdue University’s Carolin Frueh and her team are investigating what causes spacecraft to become space junk. Their findings are revealing ways to prevent spacecraft from breaking apart into thousands of pieces of debris that pose a threat to space stations and satellites.

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European Union Commissioner, Secure World Foundation Condemn Russian ASAT Test

Thierry Breton
European Union Commissioner for Internal Market

As the European Union Commissioner in charge of EU Space policy and in particular of Galileo & Copernicus, I join the strongest condemnations expressed against the test conducted by Russia on Monday 15 Nov., which led to the destruction of a satellite in low orbit (COSMOS 1408).

This anti-satellite weapon test has caused the generation of a significant amount of debris of a size that could endanger the European Union’s space activities as well as those of our Member States.

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Russian Defense Ministry Boasts of ASAT Accuracy, Dismisses Orbital Debris Risk & Blames United States for Militarizing Space

Location of the 24,000 debris larger than 10 cm in low orbit in 2020. (Credits: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite condemnation from Western governments, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu seemed rather pleased with the results of an anti-missile test (ASAT) test that destroyed a defunct Soviet satellite, scattered more than 1,500 pieces of debris in Earth orbit, and endangered the seven-member crew of the International Space Station (ISS). TASS reports:

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