As space is becoming more important, it's also becoming more crowded. And as the number of valuable assets and astronauts present in space increases, it becomes ever more important to keep space clear of debris.
On January 5, the United States Space Force launched a video announcing the Orbital Prime project. The project's goal is to make space sustainable by mitigating space debris, in part through OSAM (On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing).
This is to be done through cooperation with and support of the private sector. Until February 17, companies were able to apply for the program with different means of mitigating debris, including removal and recycling. Now, the idea is to move forward more aggressively, with capability demonstrations scheduled within two to four years.
“Our goal through Orbital Prime is to partner with innovative minds in the industry, academia, and research institutions to advance and apply state of the art technology and operating concepts in the areas of debris mitigation and removal," said Lt. Gen David Thompson, Space Force vice chief of space operations.
The initiative follows an event late last year when the occupants of the International Space Station had to seek shelter in their return craft. This as the famous space station was in danger of being hit by debris from a Russian anti-satellite weapon test in November.
The weapon's target had been a spy satellite launched in 1982, with a mass of over a tonne. The event has been condemned by the United States, among others, but downplayed by Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency.
This isn't the only initiative of a similar nature, as debris mitigation seems to be desirable by many different parties. We've previously covered how China managed to throw a satellite into a graveyard orbit, how the European Space Agency desires to protect space assets, and how Astroscale have demonstrated their ability to capture derelict satellites.
Hopefully, in a not too distant future, we'll see the fruits of these endeavors, and concerns over debris will become a thing of the past.