1. Colorado companies working on technology that could help clean up orbital debris

    Colorado companies working on technology that could help clean up orbital debris

    Space is a mess -- and getting messier. Remember the 2013 movie "Gravity"? Sandra Bullock plays an astronaut stranded in space after her ship is hit by flying remnants of a wrecked Russian satellite.

    Fictional, yes. But the movie touches on a very realistic possibility. Tons of trash -- also known as "orbital debris" -- are floating in space, thanks to wrecked satellites, detached rocket engines and spacecraft that has gone incommunicado.

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    1. Traveling at roughly 17,000 miles per hour, a marble can be very harmful to an asset (like a satellite).
    2. The way space is used today is like if your car breaks down on the freeway, you leave it there. That's not sustainable.
    3. It's more than just cataloging objects in space -- it's about maintaining custody of threats and supporting the command and control of our national security assets in space.
    4. We're in a sea change with the pace of space activity, and the new operators are going to make debris a big concern.
    5. Millions of dollars are spent each year burning fuel to move these satellites around.
    6. We actually knew we were hit because we have telemetry for the satellite that shows it got bumped.
    7. Sometimes solar panels fail to deploy. They get stuck. You can't go up and whack it with a hammer, but with a robotic arm, you could.
    8. Why a harpoon? Space debris, or dead satellites, may be rotating around three axes, so they are difficult to grab hold of using a robot arm.
    9. If things collide in space, remnants remain up there for eons.
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