UK government announces funding to monitor space debris

Computer generated image of Earth surrounded by space debris

The UK government has announced funding for organisations who can come up with “smart solutions” to tackle the growing amount of space debris. According to the government, there’s an estimated 900,000 pieces of space debris that are larger than 1cm and just a small proportion of them are currently being tracked. Space debris is a risk to space satellites and manned space missions.

The UK Space Agency’s £1 million fund will assist organisations that can come up with ways to monitor these objects directly or figure out a way to use artificial intelligence to make better use of existing orbital data. Either of these methods will help scientists track the debris and avert issues in the future.

Commenting on the news, Science Minister Amanda Solloway, said:

“From artificial intelligence to advanced tracking systems, the UK space industry is leading the way in developing ground-breaking solutions to worldwide problems.

Today’s funding will enable businesses to develop cutting-edge innovations to combat the growing amount of space debris orbiting the Earth – helping protect vital services like communications, weather forecasting and satellite navigation.”

According to the statement, an organisation is able to make a bid for a maximum grant award of up to £250,000. The government expects the space surveillance and tracking market to be worth as much as £100 million by 2035 and sees this as a market where the UK space industry can take a leading role and create new jobs along the way.

For details on how to apply for the grant check the government’s dedicated page. The deadline for applications is 10 July 2020.