Paladin Space pioneers tech to hoover dangerous space junk

"Paladin Space's unique technology will create the world's first and most desirable solution for sustainable debris-removal. "
Amal Jos Chacko
Space junk.jpg
Space junk.


An excess of junk has become a startling concern- on Earth and beyond its cosmic borders. Satellites blow up, filling space with debris every year, debris congesting space lanes. 

The Soyuz return capsule suffered a major coolant leak in December 2022, when a fragment of space junk punctured a tiny hole while being docked at the International Space Station- itself no stranger to taking evasive action to prevent such accidents.

The problem is of such consequence that space agencies and private space firms have made it their priority to find solutions. 

New low-Earth orbit satellites must prove that they can safely be disposed of in the Earth’s atmosphere within five years of decommissioning, reports Cosmos.

While 2800 or so defunct satellites need ferrying away from space, numerous tiny fragments float about, posing a larger hazard. 

“The European Space Agency is currently paying 100 million euros to remove just one item of space junk. That’s the value they put on the job,” said Harrison Box, creator, and CEO of Paladin Space- a startup that aims to help clear space- to Cosmos.

 “It doesn’t matter what the size is if it’s traveling 16.5 miles per hour (7.5 kilometers a second), it’s a huge danger to anyone or anything up there. Cleaning these up is not just a desirable thing. I think that’s going to become necessary; Otherwise we’re putting human lives at risk,” Box observed.

Paladin Space pioneers tech to hoover dangerous space junk
Paladin Space's reusable space debris remover.

Box and his team envision RED- a reusable debris removal satellite capable of capturing space junk. “Our design doesn’t pose a threat to active satellites. It can’t be misused as a weapon. We can only scoop up fragments and other items,” said Box while noting the lack of “teeth” in their innovation.

Box explained that an armored collection scoop and folding solar arrays protect the rest of the satellite. Once this “mouth” opens, momentum funnels the debris into a lightweight container.

This container, combined with a trash compacting mechanism- making use of Kevlar- is the crux of Paladin’s bespoke technology. Once filled, these disposable containers can be propelled towards the Earth, where they perish on entering the atmosphere, or be delivered to an orbital recycling foundry. 

The satellite also photographs each of these “swallowed” fragments. Box believes studies on these could reveal why satellites keep breaking up.

“We want to see if we can leverage the metal-powered thruster technology used by Neuman Space. We can see a path towards replenishing our fuel source from the metal we catch. That could be a fantastic way to ensure the mission keeps going,” concluded Box.

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