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 how exactly would a gas station orbiting our planet 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 a gas station in space, we might actually be able to use satellites for much longer instead of having to let them simply shut down because they run out of fuel. Further, by putting refueling areas in space, we could possibly make it easier to provide actual space junk cleanup with spacecraft designed to capture trash and send it back down to Earth, where it could burn up or be disposed of in other ways.
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. How often would the refueling station need to be refueled so that it could keep working? Would it need to land to make that happen? Would people need to be involved on-site to make the connections between the station and the satellites?
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. Still, seeing solutions like this being worked toward does give some hope that one day we’ll figure out the space junk conundrum and get it all back under control.