New UK funding to combat space debris

IOM3 Content Cafe
27 May 2020
Artist impression of a satellite breaking in space causing space debris. Credit: ESA

New UK government funding is on offer for innovative solutions to tackle potentially hazardous space debris. There are an estimated 900,000 pieces of space debris larger than 1cm orbiting the Earth, with only a small proportion of them tracked.

The UK Space Agency is providing up to £1 million for organisations to come up with smart solutions to this problem by using cost effective ways to monitor objects in low Earth Orbit, or applying artificial intelligence to improve use of existing orbital data.

Tracking debris allows satellite operators to predict possible collisions, allowing evasive action. One collision could create thousands of small, fast-moving fragments which can damage the satellites that provide everyday services such as communications, weather forecasting or satellite navigation.

Dr Alice Bunn, International Director, UK Space Agency, explains, ‘Space debris is a global problem and this funding will enable UK companies to develop new methods to help tackle the issue. Growing our space surveillance and tracking capabilities will be crucial for UK space businesses to innovate safely and sustainably in the future’.

Organisations will be able to bid for a maximum grant award of £250,000, out of a £1mln funding pot. Space surveillance and tracking is a growing international market, forecast to potentially reach over £100mln by 2035.

The call for applications is open from 26 May 2020 and will close on 10 July 2020.