2019-2020 Competition: Taking Out the Trash
Space debris is an issue of growing concern, with the potential to block access to space, as dramatically illustrated in the film Gravity. The Kessler Syndrome shown in the film was proposed by NASA scientist Donald Kessler in 1978: a scenario in which the density of objects in low earth orbit is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade, where each collision generates space debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions. The distribution of the resulting debris could render space activities and the use of satellites unfeasible for many generations.
The challenges to cleaning up low earth orbit are part regulatory, part technical but very much about business model. What are the sources of space debris: yesterday, today and tomorrow – including the larger number of proposed mega-constellations orbiting the earth with no onboard propulsion? Who pays to protect the “orbital commons?” How can the costs and responsibilities be equitably shared and that cost-and-responsibility sharing best enforced? What bright ideas exist for clearing it out? What combination of space law and policy, new technology and economic motivators will be required to reduce the existing cloud of space debris and to prevent additional space debris from being created?
The team from New York University Abu Dhabi took first place in this year’s competition, with second place going to the team from University of Colorado Boulder.
2018 Competition Attracts Record Number of University Teams
The 2018 SSPI-SEDS USA competition has attracted a record number of student teams to the competition from schools including:
- Georgia Tech
- Purdue University
- University of California San Diego
- University of Central Florida
- University of Colorado Boulder
- University of Kentucky
We thanks SSPI sponsor and member executives mentoring the teams, including:
- Ed Ashford of Ashford Aerospace Consulting
- Ariane Cornell of Blue Origin
- Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch of Inmarsat
- Jennifer Dawson of SSL
- Kathleen Karika of DigitalGlobe
- Nao Murakami of SSL
- Sid Skjei of Skjei Telecom