NASA currently estimates 22,000 pieces of orbital debris larger than 10 cm in diameter and 500,000 pieces between 1 and 10 cms. Even smaller fragments of at least 1 mm in diameter exist in the hundreds of millions. They are the results of spent rocket stages, failed launches, neglected or decrepit satellites, and remnants of disintegration, erosion, and collisions, all products of 55 years of space exploration. Irrespective of size, all orbital debris travel at high velocities – an average of 7 km/s in LEO and 3.1 km/s in GEO. Therefore, even pieces that are as small as a flake of paint can damage operational satellites and pose a huge threat to unmanned and manned spacecraft.
The persistent problem of orbital debris is a global issue that demands immediate mitigation measures. The future mission of Black Sun Planetary Solutions is to design cleanup methods that are both efficient and effective in eliminating orbital debris in a financially feasible manner. Black Sun Planetary Solutions engages in planet-wide problems and strives to develop products that are dramatically lower in cost. The orbital debris cleanup is amongst the company’s long term visions, along with cheap desalination techniques and affordable access to space.
BSPS has partnered with California Space Grant Consortium to provide an opportunity for a group of UCSD undergraduates to design orbital debris clean-up methods as part of a year-long project. Terrance Yee hosted a seminar at UCSD to talk about his experiences as a satellite engineer and present the details of the project.