There are currently around 3,000 working satellites in orbit, and an estimated 130 million other pieces of debris, including old satellites, spent rocket bodies and even tools dropped by astronauts.
One collision could create thousands of small, fast-moving fragments, damaging the satellites that provide everyday services such as communications, weather forecasting or satellite navigation.
This funding will help bolster the UK’s capabilities to track, monitor and reduce the risks of potentially dangerous encounters with satellites or even the crewed International Space Station.
Space debris is a global problem and the joint initiative announced today from the UK Space Agency’s National Space Technology Programme (NSTP) and Space, Surveillance and Tracking Programme (SST) will enable UK companies to mature technologies and early phase concepts to help tackle the issue.
Projects should reduce the risks of dangerous collisions in space by monitoring, tracking or supporting the removal of potentially hazardous objects.
Proposals could include ideas to:
- Advance our capabilities to detect, track or identify objects in orbit.
- Improve current approaches to compiling, cleaning or analysing data created by SST sensors.
- Improve algorithms used to determine objects’ orbits, allowing us to predict conjunctions, fragmenting or re-entering.
- Develop new technologies needed to conduct the removal of debris from orbit. This includes improving or developing new systems to help capture, manipulate, manoeuvre or de-orbit debris using another spacecraft.
- The deadline for applications is midday on the 25th August 2021 and organisations can bid for up to £200,000.
UK space sector income rose from £14.8 billion in 2016/17 to £16.4 billion in 2018/19, representing a growth of 5.7%, while employment rose by 3,200 from 41,900 to 45,100. R&D spending rose 18% from £595 million in 2016/17 to £702 million in 2018/19.
Details on the call for research proposals are here.