One million items of space debris are orbiting the earth – and only a small number are tracked.
Now the UK Space Agency is offering up to £1 million to companies to help watch the rubbish.
Most of the floating “timebombs” are all larger than a centimetre.
A wayward discarded piece of space junk could wipe out or knock a satellite off course, affecting worldwide communications, weather reports and navigation devices.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:
“From artificial intelligence to advanced tracking systems, the UK space industry is leading the way in developing ground-breaking solutions to worldwide problems.
“The funding will enable businesses to develop cutting-edge innovations to combat the growing amount of space debris orbiting the Earth – helping protect vital services like communications, weather forecasting and satellite navigation.”
Dr Alice Bunn, International Director, UK Space Agency, said:
“We want the UK to be at the forefront of a new era of space where we continue to push boundaries while ensuring the growth is sustainable for all.
Space debris is a global problem and this funding will enable UK companies to develop new methods to help tackle the issue.
“Growing our space surveillance and tracking capabilities will be crucial for UK space businesses to innovate safely and sustainably in the future.”
The funding is part of the UK Space Agency’s plans to grow its national space surveillance and tracking (SST) capability and, working with international partners.
Organisations will be able to bid for a maximum grant award of £250,000, out of a £1 million funding pot.
Space surveillance and tracking is a growing international market, forecast to potentially reach over £100 million by 2035.
With the demand for SST increasing, this supplies an opportunity for the UK space industry to take a leading role in the sector.