New approaches to tracking satellites and debris in orbit are to be promoted from the UK Space Agency.
The UKSA is giving £ 1m to more than seven firms to help advance novel sensor technologies and the smart algorithms needed to interpret their data.
Finding better ways to survey overhead moving objects has become a high priority issue.
With the launch of more and more satellites, there is growing concern about collision capability.
A major concern is redundant hardware and junk populations in Orbit – 900,000 objects larger than 1cm by some count, and all of which are capable of damaging or destroying an operational spacecraft in a high-velocity encounter.
Projects supported by UKSA come from a mix of start-ups and more established companies.
The overriding goal is to improve methods for spotting, marking, and tracking objects.
Ultimately, this is information that can be fed into future automated traffic management systems that will keep satellites out of harm’s way.
Projects funded include:
- raise me: To develop machine-learning and artificial intelligence techniques to differentiate between satellites and space junk.
- Fujitsu: Developing machine-learning approaches and quantum-inspired processing to improve mission planning for debris removal.
- Deimos And Northern Space and Security: Both develop a new range of optical sensors to track space objects from the UK.
- Internal Management and: To increase the sensitivity and speed of your camera detector technology for mapping and tracking ever smaller size debris objects.
- D-Orbit UK: To refine the use of recently launched sensors to photograph and depict objects revolving around a spacecraft.
- Loomy Space: The company is also developing laser technology to re-spot, orbit, and track objects properly.
“We have known for a long time that the atmosphere of space is becoming more difficult, and more wasting,” said Jacob Gir of the UKSA. “Space monitoring and tracking is one of the important things we can do to keep the satellites we trust now, and to ensure that some orbits are not inaccessible to future generations because They contain a lot of debris.
He told BBC News, “We had 26 proposals and I think we have chosen a good cross-section of ideas among the seven companies we are supporting.”
While many of these projects are still at the laboratory level, D-Orbit’s work is already dedicated to pushing some of its hardware capability into space.
The company recently launched a vehicle to carry and deploy clutches of small satellites. This vehicle uses cameras to photograph its surroundings and map the stars for navigation purposes.
D-Orbit has the idea of using imagery of cameras to identify the passing junk.
Simon Reid of D-Orbit explained, “One challenge in using star trackers is to filter out items that clearly shouldn’t be – because you’re trying to compare what you can see against a star catalog. Huh.” “And, of course, it’s those extra items that are basically things that are potentially debris.”
The funding announcement also coincides with the signing of a new partnership agreement between the Ministry of Defense and the UKSA to work together on space domain awareness.
Both have valuable assets and interests in their class that need to be protected. And for the UK taxpayer, this investment went deep with the recent buy-out of the bankruptcy of the OneWeb satellite broadband company.
The UK government is now part of one of the largest spacecraft networks in the sky. OneWeb has so far launched 74 satellites in its communications constellation, with plans to deploy thousands more.
Trade Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Millions of pieces of spacecraft orbiting the Earth are a significant threat to the UK’s satellite systems that provide critical services that we provide to all of us – from mobile communications to weather forecasts.
“By developing new AI and sensor technology, the seven pioneering space projects we are doing today will help the UK monitor these dangerous space objects, create new jobs and protect services we can in our everyday lives Trust. ”