Scientists have created a spacecraft to help clean up the universe after an overwhelming amount of broken satellites, rocket parts, and other debris littered the final frontier.
The British Space Agency (UKSA) has commissioned a high-tech claw to clean up space. The spacecraft, which looks like a four-fingered robotic claw, is designed to pull objects out of orbit, one by one.
UKSA CEO Paul Bate said in a news release: “With 1,700 satellites launched in the last year alone, the need to protect the space environment, which benefits everyone on Earth, is more urgent than ever.”
And fuel-depleted satellites zipping through space at 17,500 miles per hour aren’t the only threat. Spent rocket stages, debris from satellite collisions, debris from countries that shot down satellites, and even flakes of rocket paint can damage a spacecraft.
NASA replaced the shuttle’s windows due to damage from paint spots, according to the orbital debris website. The agency says millimeter-sized junk is the biggest mission-ending risk for robotic spacecraft in low-Earth orbit.
In 2009, an abandoned Russian spacecraft crashed into the US Iridium communications satellite and not only destroyed it, but the collision produced another 2,300 large pieces of space junk.
“There are millions of dangerous pieces of space junk orbiting Earth,” said Amanda Soloway, the UK’s Minister of Science. It can interfere with critical day-to-day services on which you depend.”
Claw’s mission, Clearspace-1, is planned for 2025 or 2026. Pincher grabs the top stage of the 247-pound rocket and carries it into Earth’s atmosphere, where it burns up. The rocket, which was launched by Britain about a decade ago, is between 410 and 500 miles above Earth, according to the European Space Agency.
Analysts estimate that on-orbit services such as space debris removal and satellite recovery and repair will be a cumulative $14.3 billion market by 2031.
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Rory Holmes, Head of ClearSpace UK, told FOX News’ Marianne: Rafferty. “We don’t do that in space. We treat satellites as disposable items.”
ClearSpace UK, a subsidiary of a Swiss company, designed the claws, while other British companies developed the control system, cameras and tracking systems.
“We need to think seriously about how to make sure space activities are sustainable,” Holmes said.