The dawn of the Space Age brought new technologies, new opportunities, and new adventures. Since the late 1950s, the human race broadened the reach and speed of global communications, vastly expanded our knowledge of the Earth and the cosmos beyond, developed new products and technologies, and traveled to the Moon and back, all due to the advent of rockets and artificial satellites.
These extraterrestrial explorations require the use of many kinds of materials for spacecraft structures, crew and spacecraft protection, generating electricity, connecting instruments to computers, and communicating with operators back on Earth. Materials like titanium, aluminum, silicon, and ceramics are all widely used in both satellites and rocket bodies, along with other substances, as well.
While some spacecraft do return to Earth and burn up in the atmosphere, others continue to orbit for years. Some satellites are moved into special orbits at the end of their operational life whereas others remain in their original orbit due to premature equipment failures. Either way, these objects in space represent a vast untapped resource of materials waiting to be re-used in the rapidly developing field of on-orbit manufacturing, providing ready access to valuable materials for new space missions.
Through this challenge, NASA explores whether a new industry could transform this orbital debris into an orbital opportunity by creating feedstocks from recycled spacecraft. Tell us how YOU would recycle objects in orbit!