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

Castlegar march ensures missing, murdered aboriginal women not forgotten

About 60 people took part in the Valentine’s day memorial

PLACE NAMES: West Kootenay(s)

To some locals, “West Kootenays” (as opposed to West Kootenay) is like nails on a chalkboard

Midway mill shutdown expected to last 8 to 10 weeks

Vaagen Fibre Canada cites low inventory, road restrictions as reason for shut down

First presumptive case of coronavirus identified in the Interior Health region

The woman, in her 30s, travelled from Shanghai and lives in the interior

VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard wins first Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award

Leonard scored 30 points and hit eight 3-pointers to lead Team LeBron to a 157-155 victory

BC Ferries sailings filling up Family Day Monday

More than 20 sailings added between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen for long weekend

Amtrak warns of delays as railways from Seattle to B.C. blocked by Wet’suwet’en supporters

Coastal GasLink said it’s signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected band councils along pipeline route

Federal emergency group meets on pipeline protests as rail blockades continue

There’s mounting political pressure for Trudeau to put an end to the blockades

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

B.C. man released from quarantined cruise ship in Japan

Because Spencer Fehrenbacher has American citzensip, he was evacuated by the U.S.

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

Most Read