Russian space research startup StartRocket plans to remove space debris using foam

Decades of space exploration has led to a build-up of more than five lakh pieces of useless artificial objects in space.


Decades of exploration has led to a build-up of more than five lakh pieces of useless artificial objects in space. The rising amount of debris is a cause for concern as the man-made objects orbiting the Earth can lead to dangerous collisions with space vehicles. This may result in significant damage to spaceships and put astronauts at risk.

In order to clean up space so that scientists could keep exploring it, Russian space research startup StartRocket has come up with a plan. The startup wants to create “Foam Debris Catcher” satellite which can spray all this space debris with polymeric foam that will then sink safely and burn-up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The rising amount of debris is a cause for concern as the man-made objects orbiting the Earth can lead to dangerous collisions with space vehicles. Image credit: University of Miami

The rising amount of debris is a cause for concern as the man-made objects orbiting the Earth can lead to dangerous collisions with space vehicles. Image credit: University of Miami

StartRocket is planning to crowdsource funds, first for a test mission in late 2021 and then for the debris catcher satellite.

“Elon Musk’s SpaceX wants to send 6,000 Starlink satellites into orbit, but when they stop working, or he switches them off—or he moves to Mars—someone is going to have to clean-up,” \Forbes quoted the founder of StartRocket, Vlad Sitnikov.

He said that just like garbage on the planet, people should talk about junk in orbit, adding that’s why they are creating this satellite and “give it to the people of Earth for free.”  

However, there are concerns surrounding the effectiveness of this technique. In an attempt to explain the productivity of the foam spraying process, a professor from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, John L Crassidis said, “It works on the well-known process of increasing a debris surface area in order to increase its drag, and thus make it re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up faster."

Kaspersky, which is closely monitoring technologies that can help clean up space debris, also supports StartRocket in developing the debris clearing satellite. By working with StartRocket, the company aims to raise awareness of space waste and draw attention to young technological projects.

Talking about StartRocket’s project, the vice president of marketing at Kaspersky, Andrew Winton said, “We will watch the company’s development and product progression with great interest and look forward to supporting the cause in the coming years.”


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