Clearing the Cosmos: Tackling the Space Debris Removal Challenge

In the vast expanse of the cosmos, a hidden menace orbits silently above us – space debris. As humanity’s footprint in space grows, so does the clutter we leave behind. The issue of space debris has evolved into a critical challenge, prompting countries like the UK to embark on groundbreaking initiatives for space debris removal.

Browse our live Space and Satellite jobs here.

The Alarming Space Debris Statistics

Space debris poses an increasing threat to operational spacecraft and satellites. The European Space Agency (ESA) estimates there are over 30,000 objects larger than 10 cm orbiting Earth – see their 2023 report here. Most of them litter the low-Earth orbit (below 2000 km). This does not include objects that haven’t been tracked, or those currently too small to track. Even more concerning, there are approximately over a million objects ranging from 1 cm to 10 cm in size orbiting the Earth.

Given the speed at which these objects travel, not to mention the impact speed of orbital debris with another space object is approximately 10km/s, and can be up to about 15km/s. If you are wondering, that’s more than 10 times the speed of a bullet – (NASA). With that in mind, it’s no wonder the potential danger these objects pose can be significant. 

Innovative Solutions Taking Shape

Recognizing the urgency of space debris removal, nations across the globe are collaborating to address this challenge. The UK has emerged as a proactive player in this space race, investing in pioneering technologies to tackle the problem head-on.

One such innovative approach is the concept of “space janitors.” The UK Space Agency is developing satellites equipped with robotic arms designed to capture and deorbit defunct satellites and debris. These robotic janitors will help decongest Earth’s orbit and mitigate the risk of collisions.

International Cooperation

The international community has come together to establish guidelines and best practices for responsible space activities. The Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) serves as a platform for space agencies to share information, collaborate on research, and develop strategies for debris mitigation and removal.

Furthermore, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) has been instrumental in promoting the long-term sustainability of outer space activities. The UK, along with other nations, actively participates in these discussions to shape policies that safeguard our shared cosmic environment.

Browse our live Space and Satellite jobs here.

Looking to the Future of Space Debris Removal

The challenges posed by space debris are complex and demand continuous innovation. As space exploration becomes more accessible to private companies, collaboration between governments, industries, and research institutions becomes crucial. From advanced tracking systems to novel debris removal technologies, our ability to navigate the cosmos safely depends on our collective efforts.

In conclusion, the issue of space debris removal demands immediate attention and collaborative action. With the UK and other nations taking the lead in pioneering solutions, there is hope that our journey into space will be marked by responsible practices that ensure the clarity and safety of Earth’s orbit for generations to come.


< back to other articles