Gas stations in space may be the answer to our ongoing space junk problem. Or, at the least, they could help lessen the amount of space junk that ends up orbiting our planet by allowing satellites to refuel and keep working.
But what exactly could a station in orbit around our planet do to help? Well, the idea behind Orbit Fab’s idea is based on the fact that over 15,000 satellites have been put into orbit since the 1950s. However, just over half of those satellites are still working. The rest have either burned up upon reentry or they have been left to float in Earth’s orbit, creating debris for other spacecraft to avoid.
With the addition of a space station, satellites could be used for longer before they have to shut down due to fuel shortages. By putting fueling stations in space we may be able to make it possible to have space junk cleanup by using spacecraft that can capture the trash, and then send it down to Earth where it will either burn or be disposed in another way.
It’s an intriguing plan, and one that could definitely hold some weight going forward. Of course, there is still the work of figuring out how to best develop a refueling station of this type, as well as figuring out how the logistics of everything would work. What would be the frequency of refueling to keep it working? To make this happen, would it have to land? Would people need to be involved on-site to make the connections between the station and the satellites?
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Further, there’s also the logistics of figuring out whether or not a gas station in space could actually refuel satellites that are already in orbit, or if it would only work on satellites sent up with special hardware installed. However, the fact that solutions are being developed gives some hope for a day when we can solve this space debris conundrum.
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