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Bipartisan Bill Would Establish Space Junk Removal Tech Demo Program

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A bipartisan group of four senators has introduced a bill that would create a NASA-run demonstration program for systems designed to remove orbiting debris such as obsolete government satellites from outer space.

Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.; and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., presented the Orbital Sustainability or ORBITS Act Monday.

They proposed the legislative measure in response to an incident in March 2021, when a large piece of orbiting debris crashed into a farm in Grant County, Washington.

“Space junk is not only dangerous to humans exploring space, it is also a major risk to satellites that people in Wyoming and around the country rely on for basic communication,” said Lummis, a ranking member of the Commerce Subcommittee on Space and Science.

Provisions of the bill include requiring NASA, the Office of Space Commerce and the National Space Council to produce a list of the debris that could endanger orbiting spacecraft.

“This bill will jumpstart the technology development needed to remove the most dangerous junk before it knocks out a satellite, crashes into a NASA mission, or falls to the ground and hurts someone. We must continue to explore space, and we have to do it safely,” Cantwell said.