15 Apr 2017

Solving the space junk challenge

From This Way Up, 12:55 pm on 15 April 2017

As well as littering the planet we call home with lots of rubbish, humans are now filling space with junk too.

From a broken space station solar panel to a bolt dropped by an astronaut, something that seems benign on Planet Earth can be deadly in space as it orbits at nearly 30,000km per hour.

Meanwhile, according to Space Safety Magazine, more than 7,000 satellites have been launched so far, but today only 1,400 of them are currently operational. That's a lot of abandoned old satellites to bump into, and this is another reason why scientists are exploring different approaches to cleaning up space.

Dr Jason Held, the CEO of Saber Astronautics, is based in Sydney and thinks he might have found an answer.

It's a little yoyo-like device called the DragEN that attaches to a satellite and can be remotely deployed, releasing a cord that will drag the satellite back down towards earth to burn up as it re-enters the atmosphere.