Before taking astronauts to the Moon and later being part of a historic mission to Mars, the Starship can be used in another important task: collecting space debris. The plan was announced by SpaceX chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell, during an interview with TIME on Thursday (22).
Named by the magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, Shotwell said that the spacecraft, capable of carrying up to 100 tons of cargo or 100 passengers, can carry out this collection work in Earth orbit. Thus, it would help to avoid, at least in part, one of the biggest problems for space exploration.
“It is quite possible that we could leverage the starship to go to some of these dead rocket bodies – other people’s rockets, of course – and collect some of that garbage that is in outer space”, commented the executive, who is one of the main names in the direction of the company led by Elon Musk. This is not an easy task, but Shotwell said she was “very excited about it”.
As Starship is still in the prototype testing phase, it should take a long time before it can perform such a task, if the work is actually approved by the company.
Increase in the amount of space debris
Formed by deactivated satellites, rocket debris and various other types of equipment, parts and debris, of different sizes, space waste poses risks for future missions and even for the International Space Station, which has already had to dodge some debris, recently.
With many companies launching more and more satellites, including SpaceX itself, with its Starlink constellation, the amount of space debris tends to increase considerably. Currently, it is estimated that there are more than 34 thousand debris more than 10 centimeters wide in the Earth’s orbit, in addition to 128 million smaller fragments.