UK Calls For Firms To Clean Up Dangerous Rubbish In Space

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Old satellites and other 'space junk' can be dangerous. CREDIT: Andrey Armyagov / Shutterstock

A UK Government fund will support new ideas for cleaning up space rubbish and removing dangerous debris from earth’s orbit.

One collision with space debris could create thousands of small, fast-moving fragments which can damage the satellites that provide everyday services such as communications, weather forecasting or satellite navigation.

Space firms are being invited to apply for a share of up to £800,000 in funding from the UK Space Agency to develop ideas for space debris removal missions.

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Jacob Geer, Head of Space Surveillance and Tracking at the UK Space Agency, said, “Space debris is a growing issue but there are real opportunities for the UK to lead the world in developing and marketing technologies to solve the problem. This funding could give space firms the scope and support to make real breakthroughs.

“As we progress further into this new age of space mega-constellations, the UK Space Agency will work with the industry and international partners to ensure humanity can utilise space safely and sustainably. The surge in new missions to refuel, repair or reposition old spacecraft in orbit could present a real opportunity for the UK,” she said.

“One of the biggest global challenges facing the space sector is orbital congestion and space debris. There are currently an estimated 900,000 pieces of space debris including old satellites, spent rocket bodies and even tools dropped by astronauts orbiting Earth. Space debris can stay in orbit for hundreds of years and present a real danger to the rapidly increasing number of new satellites being launched each year,” she added.


The UK Space Agency is looking to fund two active debris removal feasibility studies through its Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) programme, which aims to make space safer and more sustainable. The feasibility studies will develop a debris removal mission concept and system design. The deadline for applications is the July 13, 2021, and the opportunity is open to businesses, non-profits and academics.


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Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.

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