Orbital debris remains one of the most crucial issues in the low-Earth orbit. Tens of thousands of pieces have been floating around the Earth since the beginning of the space era. New satellites are launched every day, contributing to pollution. This could be a huge threat to the ISS and the satellites currently operating in Space.
Nanorack, a space company specializing in commercial access to low-Earth orbit and part of the Voyager Space group, recently announced their successful test of cutting metal in space. Cutting metal in space can potentially become a new approach to dealing with space trash.
Execution of the experiment
The project called Outpost Mars Demo-1 (OMD-1) is in cooperation with Voyager as delivered by SpaceX’s Transporter 5. According to Nanoracks, the experiment could set the ground for recycling, manufacturing, and construction operations in Space.
OMD-1 is a first-of-its-kind demonstration that allows a robotic arm to use a friction milling technique in space. The cutting tool operates at high rotations per minute to soften the metal. As per the company statement, the experiment was held in a controlled environment — Nanoracks’ power and data bus.
During the OMD-1 mission, the robotic arm managed to cut one coupon of corrosion-resistant steel but it did not succeed in cutting the two extra coupons set in the plan. Photos of the operation were not available due to “interference”. Despite that, Nanoracks Senior Vice President of Space Systems, Marshall Smith, shared that the demonstration was a success and is “a significant milestone in the journey to building infrastructure in space.”
Smith adds that they will investigate the uncut coupons, emphasizing the importance of Nanoracks to continue learning, adjusting, and testing as they are building this new technology. He also shows his enthusiasm for the process, saying that “we are incredibly eager to make the necessary adjustments to be able to conduct another metal-cutting experiment in the near future.”
YouTube: Nanoracks Bishop Airlock – International Space Station Trash Deployment
Photo credit: The images shown are owned by Nanoracks.