Recycling is a necessary practice in order to keep our planet clean, but now a group of scientists is looking beyond our Earth and into the space around her to try and solve the ever-worsening issue of space junk. With an estimated one million pieces of space waste currently orbiting the Earth, the need to clean it up has is becoming more pressing. Now, the Gateway Earth Development Group, an assembly of academics from learning institutions around the globe are working together to resolve this matter.
As the amount of debris in space increases, through space exploration and satellite launches, collisions in orbit are expected to increase. Such impacts could have great implications on different satellites, from satellites that warn us of an imminent superstorm to ones that assist planes with navigation.
The group has proposed plans for Gateway Earth by 2050, a space station with the ability to recycle old satellites and space debris. Gateway Earth would operate in Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) rather than Lower Earth Orbit (LEO). In GEO when a satellite can no longer be used, its owner is required to send it to a higher “graveyard” orbit a region roughly 185 to 250 miles away from an internationally agreed protection zone. However, at least twenty percent of these satellites do not make it to the “graveyard” orbit and need attending to urgently.
Repurpose, recycle and repair of satellites at a facility in Earths orbit could provide space agencies with raw materials for construction in space without any launch costs could significantly reduce the cost of future space exploration as well as reducing space waste.
Current space laws surrounding space junk are dated, with the removal of an old satellite forbidden unless the owner has given their consent, even if it is on course to collide with a working one that provides the earth with vital information. The UN is currently revising such rules.
In addition to a space recycling center, the Gateway Earth Development Group is also putting together plans for a fueling hub for spacecrafts travelling between planets, a space hotel and a spacecraft construction facility.