Government announces new funding for space sustainability projects

From: techUK
Published: Tue Feb 01 2022

The UK Space Agency is providing 1.7 million for new projects to support sustainable space operations.

Science Minister George Freeman, yesterday announced funding for 13 new projects which involve both industry and academia across the UK to help track and remove dangerous debris in space. Space debris is a major threat to the satellite services the UK relies on and more globally, orbital congestion created by space debris is a widespread challenge facing the space sector. The 13 new projects include an AI-based tool which can take autonomous action to avoid a collision and another which will see multiple small spacecraft fired at debris before taking it into the atmosphere to dispose of.

There are currently an estimated 330 million pieces of space debris, including 36,500 objects bigger than 10cm including old satellites, spent rocket bodies and even tools dropped by astronauts orbiting Earth. The increasing number of satellites which are being launched each year, providing vital services including communications and climate change monitoring, are under real threat as space debris can stay in orbit for hundreds of years.

Last year, techUK welcomed the launch of the UK's National Space Strategy which set out a bold vision for the sector and encouraged support from industry in making space safe and sustainable. The new funding proposed by the government invites industry and academia to be pivotal in developing new technologies for Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) and debris removal.

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