UK announces plans to clean up space junk

Government agency funds companies to remove debris from the Earth’s orbit

Credit: Miguel Soares/CC BY-SA 4.0

The government has announced funding programmes and other initiatives to target rubbish clogging up outer space

The UK Space Agency has picked two firms – Swiss outfit ClearSpace and Japanese-headquartered Astroscale – to receive funding to deliver research supporting a “UK-led mission to remove junk from space”. 

A further partnership has been agreed with Numerica, a US firm that will provide “provide high-quality space surveillance and tracking data from a worldwide network of optical telescopes and state-of-the-art software solutions”.

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UKSA will also work collaboratively with the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs to deliver a programme of work intended to “advance global awareness on space sustainability” and help ensure UN guidelines are met.

The government said that the “orbital congestion” caused by the 900,000 items of debris around the Earth – including defunct satellites, rocket parts and other items – is a major global challenge.

Science minister George Freeman said: “Growing reliance on satellites for a range of everyday utilities from satnav to meteorology is making the space tech sector increasingly valuable to the UK economy. Our National Space Strategy sets out our vision for a thriving UK space sector that pushes the boundaries of innovation including a specific commitment to lead in clearing space debris. These new projects will support our leading role in cleaning up our orbit, which has been neglected for far too long, and will help keep satellites operating safely so they can continue to provide vital services such as communications and climate change monitoring.”


Sam Trendall

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