Space junk poses a threat to the launch of new satellites and the existing fleet in space, including the costs of damages from hundreds of thousands of debris.
An on-orbit recycling system, however, could be a viable solution this problem. The system would eliminate space debris by vaporizing them, recycling and recovering materials from current satellites and manufacture structural elements even while in space.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) estimated that there is more than 500,000 debris in the Earth’s orbit. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems’ Howard Eller said that a recycling system in space might be possible, as it would harness sunlight as its energy source.
Most objects orbiting the Earth are relatively small, but all of them move as fast as 17,500 miles per hour. This makes them a potential threat to existing and future spacecraft. Satellite developers use an inertial simulator to gauge the desired state of motion for the object, hence any untested external forces will make the development process more difficult.
Despite the Earth’s orbit being a huge grave site for old satellites, certain places on the planet serve the same purpose. Point Nemo, which is the most famous, spans an area of 1,000 miles in the Pacific Ocean. The place has been the best dumpsite of old spacecraft, due to its distance from even one of the most isolated islands in the world.
Unlike larger spacecraft, smaller satellites disappear before reaching the Earth’s surface, since they become engulfed in flames upon entering the atmosphere. Hrvoje Lukatela discovered the Point Nemo and said that its location is “unique” and better than any other point on the planet.
As mankind deploys more satellites into space, the subject of recycling no longer just applies to Earth’s air, land and sea.