Sen. Cantwell: First of its Kind Program to Clean Up Space Junk
U-S Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State has joined Senator John Hickenlooper of Colorado in introducing a bill to establish a program to reduce the amount of space junk in orbit.
Cantwell chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
“Nearly one million pieces of space junk pass over our heads every day,” Sen. Cantwell said. “The ORBITS Act will jumpstart the technology development needed to remove the most dangerous space junk before it knocks out a scientific satellite, threatens a NASA mission, or falls to the ground and hurts someone.”
It's estimated that 8,000 metric tons of junk including 900,000 individual pieces of debris circle the planet. Because the orbital debris poses a threat to space exploration, research missions and commercial space services, the committee passed the Orbital Sustainability (ORBITS) Act October 31.
In March 2021, Grant County Sheriff's Deputies say a pressure vessel from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket fell from the sky and left a 4-inch dent in the soil on farmland. It was roughly the size of a punching bag.
A cylindrical object about the size of a small car that washed up on a remote Australian beach over the summer is believed to have come from a rocket.
The ORBITS Act would:
- Direct the Department of Commerce Office of Space Commerce (OSC) to publish a list of debris that poses the greatest risk to orbiting spacecraft;
- Establish a NASA program to demonstrate the removal of debris from orbit to accelerate the development of required technologies;
- Encourage consistent orbital debris regulations by initiating a multi-agency update to existing orbital debris standards applicable to government systems; and
- Require OSC, with the National Space Council and Federal Communications Commission, to encourage the development of practices for coordinating space traffic, which will help avoid collisions that create debris.
With the committee passing Senator Cantwell's and Senator Hickenlooper's ORBITS Act, it now goes to the house for full consideration.
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