At Small Satellite Conference, Frustration About Lagging Efforts to Deal With Space Junk | 11/18/2018 | Staff
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LONDON — A British debris-removal satellite was deployed this summer from the International Space Station to help researchers figure out new techniques to clean up space junk that increasingly is becoming a hazard to the ISS and to other satellites.

The experimental RemoveDebris mission in September successfully cast a net to catch a dead satellite in space. Next year it will try to capture the target with a harpoon.

Harpoon - Piece - Debris - Problem - Kennedy

"If I have to bring out a harpoon for every piece of debris, I'm not sure I've helped. I may be contributing to the problem," Kennedy said Nov. 5 at the Small Satellites and Disruptive Technology Focus Day conference hosted by the SMi Group.

An experimental RemoveDebris mission successfully deployed a giant net to capture a target satellite.

Q - A - Session - Industry - Executive

During a Q&A session, an industry executive expressed frustration that governments seem to be unable to find a solution to the space debris problem, especially in low Earth orbit. "Couldn't DARPA do something?" the executive asked Kennedy.

DARPA has studied the problem for years and concluded that some active removal of debris is needed but the long-term answer is self policing, Kennedy said. "If the industry is putting up a thousand satellites, they have to figure this out," he said. "All the mega constellations are aware, they are working that problem." The national security community and the civilian space agencies are trying to figure out how to better track debris as part of a larger space traffic management effort. But as broadband satellite companies start building their constellations, Kennedy said, they should have a plan to de-orbit their out-of-service spacecraft.

Companies - SpaceX - OneWeb - Telesat - Care

"It would be much better if companies like SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat would take care of the problem themselves and have a plan," he said. "I know they have thought about it." Their motivation is not just to make...
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