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New technology collects space trash, brings it back to Earth

Posted at 11:23 AM, Oct 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-03 14:23:37-04

LONGMONT, Colo. – Since the 1950s, we’ve been launching spacecrafts and satellites into space.

Bruce Davis at the Colorado company Roccor says, “right now there's 8,100 payloads or pieces that have been launched into space since the beginning of the space age that are currently up there.”

From old satellites to broken pieces off a rocket, space trash is an emerging problem. Davis says the debris can take 100 years to come down.

Davis and his team at Roccor have built new technology to help collect and bring down the leftover trash floating in space.

Their technology is attached to a satellite before it gets launched. After it’s up in space for the amount time it was supposed to be, a timer goes off deploying the long sheet of metal. This helps drag down the space trash to the Earth’s atmosphere.

"The reentry is so fierce that it just completely melts and vaporizes before it hits the ground,” said Davis.

If we allow space trash to accumulate, future satellites used for cell service or cable and internet could potentially collide with leftover junk, destroying the satellite and ultimately affecting your services.

Davis says to think of space trash collecting as the beginning of air travel.

“It wasn't until it became a dependable form of travel for the whole world, did we need something like the FAA to regulate where those airplanes are and make sure that collisions weren't occurring, that everything was happening safely.”

Right now, there is no government mandate to put the Roccor device on new satellites. It’s currently good Samaritans opting to aid in the future efforts to keep space clean.