NASA has announced to fund three studies to understand the growing problem of space junk to analyse the economic, social and policy issues associated with space sustainability.
Announcing this, Bhavya Lal, associate administrator for the Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy (OTPS) at NASA, said that orbital debris is one of the great challenges of our era.
"Maintaining our ability to use space is critical to our economy, our national security, and our nation's science and technology enterprise," Lal said in a statement.
"These awards will fund research to help us understand the dynamics of the orbital environment and show how we can develop policies to limit debris creation and mitigate the impact of existing debris," she added.
According to the European Space Agency, over 170 million pieces of space junk are actually
moving around Earth at rapid speeds of 10 times faster than that of a bullet.
NASA takes the threat of orbital debris seriously as these objects can endanger spacecraft, jeopardize access to space, and impede the development of a low-Earth orbit economy, including commercial participation.
These new awards will fund research that supports the agency's commitment to address the problem. This is not the first time the issue has been taken up by NASA. In the past, Aerospace Corporation, funded by the US Government with a development center in El Segundo, California, has developed a "Brane Craft" to remove space junk. The company plans to send several Brane crafts to burn the junk while returning to the Earth's atmosphere.
Japan and the UK have similar plans in testing stage while Digantara, a Bengaluru-based startup, said last month that it is on a mission to compile data on space debris ahead of sending 40 satellites that are going to study data on space junk in low-earth orbit (LEO). The satellites are scheduled to be launched early next year.