Image: Astroscale-UK

As Astroscale-UK plans to remove a defunct British satellite from orbit, Paul Kostek, IEEE senior member, advisory systems engineer with Air Direct Solutions (infrastructure) comments on the potential danger posed by space debris to satellites launches in the future.

Kostek said: The company wants to send a sophisticated robot arm to space to retrieve the junk before being sent downwards to burn up in the atmosphere. The initiative is part of the UK governments’ wider effort to address the worrying volume of debris in space.”

The UK’s space agency previously offered £4 million (as part of its £102 million budget, over the next three years), in funding to industry partners to deliver capabilities to track objects in space and reduce debris.

“The huge surge in the construction of satellite constellations in low Earth orbit (LEO) is presenting serious logistical challenges, many of which, operators may have not really encountered before – including the allocation of frequencies for these systems, as well as overall traffic management. The industry needs to address how future satellites will be deployed and managed effectively, and to mitigate the risk of collisions, interference, and preventable incidents,” said Kostek.

Steps in the right direction

“Whilst this is a step in the right direction it’s important to manage the ever-growing volume of space debris by finding new ways to capture and destroy it. Other companies are already exploring the creation of vehicles to send to space, with the purpose to refuel and move satellites to extend their lives. The level of danger posed by space debris in the atmosphere could be decreased through the implementation of Space Traffic Management (STM).

“Future satellites and arrays will need to be designed to address debris issues in mind, such as changes to the orbit, whilst also being capable of operating if any damage does occur, for example damage to the modular systems. Companies will have to consider the potential danger posed by space debris to satellites launches in the future.”

Subscribe to the FINN weekly newsletter