Building a Garbage Truck for Space

This guy is awesome:

Mitsunobu Okada, aspires to be more than an ordinary garbageman. Schoolroom pictures of the planets decorate the door to the meeting room. Satellite mock-ups occupy a corner. Mr. Okada greets guests in a dark blue T-shirt emblazoned with his company’s slogan: Space Sweepers.

In my novel Manx Prize, Charlotte Fisher creates what she calls the B&B (Brake and Bake), to grab and burn up space debris in her quest to win $50 million in gold.  Mr. Okada goes one better:

He said he has created a two-step plan for making money from debris removal. First, Astroscale plans to launch a 50-pound satellite called IDEA OSG 1 next year aboard a Russian rocket. The craft will carry panels that can measure the number of strikes from debris of even less than a millimeter. Astroscale will use this data to compile the first detailed maps of debris density at various altitudes and locations, which can then be sold to satellite operators and space agencies, Mr. Okada said.

“We need to get revenue at an early stage, even before doing actual debris removal, to prove that we are commercial, as a business,” said Mr. Okada, who added that he had already raised $43 million from investors.

The more ambitious step will come in 2018, when Mr. Okada says Astroscale will launch a craft called the ELSA 1. Larger than its predecessor, the ELSA 1 will be loaded with sensors and maneuvering thrusters that will allow it to track and intercept a piece of debris.

The company settled on a lightweight and simple approach to grabbing space debris: glue.

In Manx Prize, the Consortium of Man, a fictional association of satellite and orbitat operators located on the Isle of Man, offers a prize to clean up the orbital environment.  In real life, the Isle of Man really is a very space friendly environment.

(The link is to a New York Times article if you want to read the whole thing).

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