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Space Force wants to pay commercial space to remove space junk

Capitalism in space: In a video released today, the Space Force announced a new program, dubbed Orbital Prime, that asks commercial companies to bid on a new test program for removing space junk.

More info here.

The initial solicitation, due by February 17th, asks for proposals capable of achieving the ability to rendezvous, dock and service a piece of space junk, either by “repairing, repositioning, refueling, deorbiting, reusing or recycling” it. The solicitation is aiming for orbital test flights in no more than two to four years.

This approach by the military is excellent news, and continues the transition by the space-related agencies of federal government from trying to design and build everything itself to acting merely as a customer and buying what it needs from the private sector.

There are a number of companies who have already launched robots capable of doing exactly this, including Northrop Grumman and Astroscale. By taking this customer approach, the military will likely not only get a junk removal capability sooner, it will do so for far less cost.

It would also seem that the Russian anti-satellite test that produced thousands of pieces of orbital junk that now threatens ISS and a number of military satellites also helped prompt this announcement. The military has clearly recognized that it needs the capability to remove space junk now. It cannot afford to follow its past behavior of taking forever to accomplish such tasks.


Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors. The ebook can be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner. Note that the price for the ebook, $3.99, goes up to $5.99 on September 1, 2022.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Skunk Bucket

    Remove all you want. The commies will make more.

  • Tom Billings

    1.) This capability could have been put up for bid at anytime in the last 10 years, and should have been.

    2.) The USAF Air Staff had no attention to spare for it in a “things with wings” Service, nor any budgeted money to bribe Congress members into voting for it as a line item, which it probably has to be.

    3.) USSF *has* the attention, and is paying attention. It has a Congress with its major boosters/critics asking why it isn’t moving faster.

    4.) It still has the rest of the security establishment to drag along behind it, … State Department, … NRO, … and a constellation of other agencies that have bathed in the last 50 years of “keep what worked before going”. Meanwhile, PLASSF has developed the means to shatter what worked before, and have a far higher deployment rate *at*the*moment* than does the US.

    5.) *Any* device that can remove debris or inactive sats from orbit is a small step away from an orbital ASAT, which the US governmental consensus has *not* favored introducing, because its own abilities in orbit are such a large advantage that we don’t want to set that precedent.

    6.) The commercial route’s advantages is that USSF need not wait for Congress to fund an entire 12 years long development program in “the right political districts”.

    7.) The Policy-level disadvantage is this may strengthen the current PLASSF/PLA/CPC line that in Space “Private = Pirate”. It is notable that as CPC propaganda declares its “civilizational” emphasis, the policies of the agrarian millennia dynasties start to leak through, including the attitude that sea-going trade and strength in commercial groups is a natural lead in to the piracy that plagued China from 1280-1560. While the CPC/PLA have locked down actual sea-going piracy, their attitude toward spaceflight seems to have picked up Space as the new equivalent for “Private = Pirate”. Hiring commercial groups to pull *anything* out of orbit is going to strengthen this.

    8.) This is a good thing to do. That said, it is not without costs. We must accept those costs with clear eyes and a focus on growing capability.

  • sippin_bourbon

    This is excellent.

    1. Identify a problem.
    2. Leverage the free market to solve the problem.

  • BLSinSC

    Get a big “space net” to scoop up as much debris and then let it re-enter the atmosphere and burn up – problem solved!

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