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This crazy idea could be a solution to the space junk conundrum

Published Jan 1st, 2023 4:08PM EST
Image: Reid Wiseman/NASA

Space junk is a terrible problem right now, especially as more and more companies continue to send satellites into space. With the ISS swerving to avoid space debris multiple times this year, many are looking for a way to solve Earth’s space junk conundrum, a solution that could come in the form of a crazy stratospheric paraglider. (via Space.com)

The test for the space tech return service was recently tested back in April of 2022. The test saw a paraglider drop twice from a dozen miles high in the Earth’s stratosphere. From there, the paraglider was able to safely bring the “space ferry” down to Earth. It’s an intriguing idea that creator Outpost Technologies says could help remove junk from orbit around Earth.

The ongoing issues with space debris have only gotten worse in recent years, as more and more companies continue to send satellites into space. This has led to an increase in the amount of debris orbiting our planet. As such, solving this space junk conundrum has then become paramount to the future of space exploration.

space junk conundrum sees tons of debris around EarthImage source: JPL

But why exactly does space junk matter? Well, the core of the issue comes from the dangers that space debris poses to various spacecraft, including space stations like the International Space Station. When the debris is left to orbit Earth without any form of controlled deorbit, it simply remains in space, circling our planet and often coming close to key spacecraft like the ISS.

If we’re going to make space travel more of a public offering, we have to remove as much of that risk as possible. This is why many companies like Outpost Technologies are looking for ways to solve the space junk conundrum. But is a paraglider really the answer? I mean, it could be. Not only does it allow for a controlled deorbit, but it means that we can bring this junk down in one piece.

That means these older parts could then be recycled, which would allow us to lower the cost of future spacecraft, station parts, and so on down the list. This company, in particular, is already working with NASA to create a cargo ferry for ISS payload returns, which could play a part in how NASA de-orbits the ISS in the 2030s

For now, though, it can hopefully help lower the amount of space junk in orbit around our planet, finally giving us a workable solution for the space junk conundrum.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices. Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.