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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: