Canadian military program seeks help to take out space trash

European Space Agency estimates more than 129 million pieces of trash are circling the planet

Astronaut Ed White moves away from the Gemini 4 capsule in this 1965 file photo. White, the first American spacewalker, lost a spare glove when he went outside for the first time. From that time on, astronauts have accidentally added some of the more unusual items to the 100,000 pieces of space trash that circle Earth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/NASA, FILE

The Canadian military is looking for help taking out the trash in space.

Over the last two years, the military’s Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security program has awarded 16 contracts totalling $4.8 million to Canadian companies and university researchers to find ways to identify some of the millions of pieces of junk orbiting the Earth.

Now it is preparing to award more contracts, looking for companies that can track the smallest bits of space junk, as well as solutions to pulling space waste of all sizes out of Earth’s orbit.

“The hazards posed by debris collisions include erosion to hulls, solar panels and optics,” reads a request for proposals issued by the department’s innovation science program last summer.

It can also cause the junk in space to break up even more, compounding the space trash issue. The potential consequences are serious: it could cause the total loss of a space vehicle and hurt, or even kill, the astronauts inside them.

“Space debris will grow as the number of human-made objects in Earth orbits increase over time,” the request says.

The request for proposals closed in September and a spokeswoman for the military says contracts will be awarded this winter. The contracts are worth up to $200,000 each, for a maximum of six months.

The European Space Agency estimates more than 129 million pieces of garbage are circling the Earth, pieces of old satellites, broken up rockets, and castoffs from human missions to space.

The Department of National Defence is mandated to protect and defend Canada’s space capabilities, including the satellites it relies on for communications, surveillance and navigation.

A raisin-sized remnant from an old satellite or a rocket may be small but when it’s travelling at speeds of up to 28,000 kilometres per hour as it circles the planet, it can cause significant damage to space craft or satellites.

The Canadian military says current removal systems are ineffective and nobody has yet found a way to keep track of the smallest pieces of space debris.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Talks with hereditary chiefs run into the night

Ministers expected to make statement Saturday morning

Mohawks propose temporary Indigenous police for Wet’suwet’en territory

The RCMP has already committed to ending patrols along a critical roadway

Talks with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs enter second day

Federal and provincial ministers ready to extend discussions

51 health professionals send letter to Trudeau, Horgan panning Coastal GasLink

They point to studies about the health and climate change risks from pipeline

Wet’suwet’en herreditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

Neither party speaking on the groundwork laid for tomorrow’s talks

Toddler killed in Squamish grocery store parking lot

Child’s mother taken to hospital but her condition is not known

Two law enforcement trucks ‘deliberately’ set on fire in northern B.C., RCMP say

Police say they have video evidence of a person in the area of the truck fires

B.C. mother, daughter return home after coronavirus quarantine in Asia

Jensine Morabito and her daughter were on Holland America’s Westerdam but did not catch the virus

Leap Year means we get an extra day in February, so how are you spending it?

People online have a number of suggestions and plans on how they will be spending Saturday

Greta sticker that drew outrage in Alberta not child pornography: RCMP

X-Site Energy Services has denied having anything to do with the stickers

Bald eagle hit by train in northern B.C. has a chance of survival

The raptor has been taken to OWL in the Lower Mainland for recovery

Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto sign a historic agreement

Co-operation crucial to stem dropping Nechako Reservoir level

Hundreds of B.C. firefighters ‘climb the wall’ for BC Lung Association

The charity fundraiser saw participants climbing up 48 storeys

Most Read