Thursday 4 February 2021 1:03 pm

Scottish rocket company to clean up space debris from 2023

The UK could become a world leader in tackling space debris after successful trials of a ‘space tug’ align with a new UN space initiative, the Scottish rocket company behind the development said today.

Skyrora said that its orbit transfer vehicle, part of its Skyrora XL rocket, could clear debris, reposition satellites and remove redundant satellites from orbit.

The news follows the ‘historical’ agreement last Tuesday by the UK and the UN on space sustainability, after which the UK pledged £85,000 in international support for the initiative.

Chief executive Volodymyr Levykin said: “Our goal was always to be mission-ready once all the regulations and permissions were in place, and this development, the directive, not only brings us closer to that point but also takes us beyond simply launch readiness.”

Space junk

Tackling the issue of space junk, the “reignitable” Skyrora XL rocket is due to launch in 2023 where the so-called ‘space tug’ can push the government to meet space sustainability goals under the new agreement.

The ‘space tug’ has been successfully trialled in Fife, the Edinburgh-based company said, which leaves the door open to space missions involving the orbital transfer vehicle.

Skyrora aims to conduct launches as sustainably as possible, marking a new era of efficiency with full consideration of environmental impact.

“There are around 34,000 objects above 10cm in size in Earth’s orbit that would be considered space junk – 3,000 of which are redundant satellites,” the company said in a statement.

“Moving at around 10km/s, these objects could produce debilitating damage to operational satellites or even the International Space Station.”