The amount of space debris is increasing, including everything from dead spacecraft and spent rocket components to junk from anti-satellite testing. This garbage is whizzing by at an incredible speed, posing a serious threat to communications satellites and the International Space Station (ISS). Last week, Russia’s anti-satellite test even dispatched astronauts to board the International Space Station for a brief evacuation in accordance with the emergency agreement. In order to reduce this possibility in the future, international efforts are being made to find ways to recycle these debris into space rocket fuel. An Australian company, a Japanese company and two American companies are all involved in this work.
Australia’s Neumann Space is working with three other companies to convert space junk into fuel for the already developed “space electric propulsion system”. It is working with Japanese startup Astroscale, which has shown how to use satellites to capture space debris, and the US company Nanorocks, which aims to use advanced robotics to store and cut debris in orbit. Another American company, Cislunar, is also part of the project. It will help develop a space foundry to melt the debris and use it to make metal rods.
These metal rods can then be used as fuel for the Neumann propulsion system, which is developing an ion thruster in Adelaide.
Herve Astier, Neumann’s CEO, said that when he was told about the plan to melt metal in space, he thought it was a futuristic plan. “But they got funding from NASA, so we built a prototype and it worked,” he told the Guardian.
As the space debris problem worsens, institutions and governments around the world are struggling to find solutions. Some researchers and companies around the world are studying it. But most of them either try to bring the trash back to Earth or destroy it. But this approach taken by a consortium of three companies is trying to use space junk by turning space junk into a “fuel station” in space to perform other tasks.
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