While SpaceX is working hard to make reusable rockets the new standard, space launches still leave huge amounts of rocket debris in orbit.
The Nanoracks company decided to tackle this problem – and proposes to use space junk to create new orbital stations and residential modules. In this case, all “construction” work will be carried out directly in orbit.
Nanoracks engineers are making a special bet on dropped upper stages of rockets, which are very good for turning into safe and practical space shelters. The only caveat is that such reconstruction work has never been carried out in orbit. Therefore, next May, the company will launch its own robot into space, which will practice cutting metal in microgravity. At the first stage, this process will take place in a closed chamber.
“NASA has looked at the idea of recycling or refurbishing used rocket fuel tanks several times,” says Jeffrey Manber, CEO of Nanoracks. “But every time I gave up on this venture, because the technology suitable for this simply did not exist.” Manber hopes that the Nanoracks initiative will change the way space debris is viewed – instead of a constant looming threat, it will begin to be perceived as a potentially useful resource.