Clearing up space junk: 3D printed satellites will make space more equitable | 2/5/2019 | Staff
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Nobody owns space. As such, it should be free to all. But it’s not. Only a few countries have access to Earth’s orbit and beyond. The reasons for this inequality relate to the high costs as well as the navigational capabilities required to deal with the sea of satellite debris that orbits the planet, but an MIT researcher expects that 3D printing will help level the playing field by enabling satellites to be 3D printed in orbit.

Danielle Wood runs the Space Enabled program at MIT’s Media Lab. The program aims to advance justice in Earth’s systems through designs enabled by space, such as satellite communication and Earth observation, technology transfer, and microgravity research. Nations benefit with access to those capabilities, but many nations don’t have that access because it’s very expensive to launch rockets, and without advanced orbital tracking systems, it’s nearly impossible to chart a trajectory through the existing web of satellites and the debris from satellites that stopped operating decades ago. An estimated 5,000 objects larger than three feet orbit Earth, along with tens of thousands of smaller objects.

Space - Actors - Sort - Approach - Engineering

"Early space actors could take sort of a lazy approach to satellite engineering," Wood said to She’s referring to the fact that they didn’t have to factor in dodging all of that debris, nor did they have to plan for and execute the de-orbiting maneuvers expected of modern satellite engineers, which is why the debris problem even...
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