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Space: Cleaning Failed and Dead Orbiting Satellites from the Skies

By Dick Weisinger

Space is becoming a junkyard of unusable satellites and debris.

Luc Piguet, founder and CEO of ClearSpace, said that “the space debris issue is more pressing than ever before. Today we have nearly 2000 live satellites in space and more than 3000 failed ones. And in the coming years the number of satellites will increase by an order of magnitude, with multiple mega-constellations made up of hundreds or even thousands of satellites planned for low Earth orbit to deliver wide-coverage, low-latency telecommunications and monitoring services. The need is clear for a ‘tow truck’ to remove failed satellites from this highly trafficked region.”

In February 2020, Northrup Grumman sent a recovery spacecraft, MEV-1, to dock with the Intelsat 901 communications satellite to dock with it and fill it with fuel to enable it to be functional for another 15 years.

Joe Anderson, vice president at SpaceLogistics, said that “this is the first time in history, a docking has ever been performed with a satellite that was not pre-designed with docking in mind. This is the first time two commercial satellites have ever docked.”

Tom Wilson, president of SpaceLogistics, said that the goal of “new robotics technology [… is…] to build a fleet of satellite servicing vehicles that provide customers with a variety of options to select the type of life-extension or in-orbit repairs they need.”

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