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.
JAXA has published the following Q&A interview with Mayumi Matsuura, the space agency’s space situation awareness (SSA) system project manager.
— What is the current state of space debris monitoring in Japan?
Space debris is monitored at the Kamisaibara Spaceguard Center and the Bisei Spaceguard Center, both in Okayama Prefecture. At Kamisaibara, we use radar to monitor debris in low Earth orbit (LEO) up to an altitude of approximately 2,000 km. Although the size of debris that can be monitored depends on its altitude, we can simultaneously track a total of 10 targets 1 meter or more in diameter. At Bisei, we use an optical telescope, which allows us to monitor debris in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) at an altitude of 36,000 km.
JAXA analyzes data from these facilities to pinpoint debris orbit and position, and when this data and other inputs show that there is a possibility of debris colliding with satellites, a warning is issued to the satellite team. This is the role of the Space Tracking and Communications Center (STCC), where I work. To avoid being hit by debris, all you need to do is change your orbit, so the center prepares detailed proposals on when and how to do this. In some cases, debris is expected not to burn up on reentry into the atmosphere, but to fall back to Earth. In these situations, my job is to predict where it will reenter the atmosphere. (more…)
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.
Engine for Growth: Analysis and Recommendations for U.S. Space Industry Competitiveness
Aerospace Industries Association May 2017 [Full Report]
Policy Recommendations for Strengthening U.S. Space Competitiveness
1. Level the Playing Field
Provide a responsive regulatory environment for commercial space activities. The list of commercial space activities is varied and growing, ranging from traditional applications such as satellite telecommunications to emerging ones like space resource utilization. At the same time, the U.S. space industry is governed by multiple federal agencies with disparate regulatory interests, including the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration and Departments of State and Commerce. These agencies often suffer from funding and staffi ng shortages, a situation that creates bottlenecks in licensing processes and slows responsiveness to technological and market changes. The new Administration should work closely with Congress to ensure that the appropriate space regulatory agencies are fully resourced and staffed. (more…)
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.
El SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corporation PR) – NASA has awarded Dr. Siegfried Janson of The Aerospace Corporation (Aerospace), a leader in space technology and game-changing innovation, with the 2017 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase II grant award, worth approximately $500,000, for further development of his Brane Craft flat spacecraft proposal.
Video Caption: Earth is surrounded by a cloud of space debris. This material ranges from dead satellites and rocket stages to fragments of material and even flecks of paint… and all this junk could do enormous damage to working satellites.
During 18–21 April, experts from around the world will meet at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany for the 7th European Conference on Space Debris.
Delegates will discuss the extent of the debris problem and what can be done to ensure that satellites we rely on – providing us with services such as navigation, TV and weather forecasting – can operate safely in the future.
Talks will address acute issues like current practices in debris avoidance, novel concepts for removing debris, and the deployment of large constellations of several thousand satellites for telecommunications.
The conference will be opened by ESA Director General Jan Woerner and NASA’s former orbital debris chief scientist, Donald Kessler.
On 18 April and 21 April, live webcasts will cover the keynote address and press briefing, respectively. Details via esa.int/debris.
MENLO PARK, Calif., Feb. 27, 2017 (LeoLabs PR) — LeoLabs, Inc., the leading commercial provider of data to track space debris and prevent collisions in low Earth orbit (LEO), today announced closing a $4 million investment round. Funding is backed by a prestigious consortium of global investors, including SRI International, Horizons Ventures, and Airbus Ventures. With this funding, LeoLabs is accelerating its cloud-based debris and satellite tracking service, expanding its ground-based radar infrastructure, and supporting engagements with commercial and governmental customers.
JAXA’s effort to test an electrodynamic tether (EDT) that could help clean up orbital space debris has hit a snag, Japanese media report.
The 700 meter (2,297 ft) long tether was to have deployed from the Kounotori resupply ship after it separated from the International Space Station on Jan. 27. However, JAXA says the tether, which had a mass on the end that weights about 20 kg (44 lb.), did not deploy as planned.
The agency planned to continue trying to try to deploy the tether through Saturday (today). The supply ship is scheduled to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere on Monday.
The tether is designed to slow down a piece of debris by running an electrical current through it. The current will hasten the entry of the debris into the Earth’s atmosphere.
“JAXA plans to perform Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiments (KITE) in order to establish and demonstrate EDT technology and to obtain some EDT characteristics, such as tether deployment dynamics, and electron emission and collection in space plasma,” the space agency says on its website.
“KITE will help us identify the features and key technologies necessary to design and develop an EDT system as a method for improving space safety by removing large debris,” the website states.
A white paper outlining China’s space policy for the next five years calls for a sample return mission to the moon, a landing on the far side of Earth’s closest neighbor, and the launch of an orbiter and lander to Mars by 2020.
China will also begin constructing a permanent space station and research and development work on a heavy-lift launcher, reusable boosters and satellite servicing systems.
The nation also wants to expand international cooperation in areas that include remote sensing, space applications, lunar and planetary exploration, and human spaceflight.
A report on space traffic management prepared for NASA recommends that the responsibility for tracking satellites and orbital debris be transferred from the Department of Defense (DOD) to a civilian agency, but it does not recommend which one.
The analysis, titled “Orbital Traffic Management,” was done by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) under a NASA contract. Congress ordered the study as part of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015.
WASHINGTON (US State Department PR) — Pursuant to their shared goal of advancing civil space cooperation, as agreed upon in the Strategic Track of the U.S. – China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in June 2015 and reaffirmed in June 2016, the United States and China convened their second Civil Space Dialogue on October 20, 2016, in Washington, DC.
This ongoing Civil Space Dialogue enhances cooperation between the two countries, promotes responsible behavior in space, and encourages greater transparency and openness on a variety of space-related issues.
MIDLAND, Texas, September 13, 2016 (MDC PR) – The Midland City Council and the Midland Development Corporation (MDC) approved two agreements with LeoLabs, Inc., a company offering space debris tracking services.
The city of Midland has executed a License Agreement regarding city-owned property for the use of LeoLabs.
The MDC has entered into a promotional agreement with LeoLabs, Inc., which will include advertising and publicizing for the City of Midland for the purpose of developing new and expanded business enterprises.
EL SUGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corporation PR) — NASA has awarded Aerospace a grant to investigate the possibility of developing an extremely thin spacecraft that would wrap around debris and remove it from Earth’s orbit.
The innovative concept, called Brane Craft, is a 1-meter square spacecraft that is less than half the thickness of a human hair, and therefore exceptionally light, maneuverable, and fuel efficient.