X Prize Foundation to announce a competition to collect space debris

The non-governmental organization X Prize, known as the author of prizes for startups that have achieved significant success in space exploration, is preparing to announce a new competition. This time, the foundation plans to reward companies that will be able to clear the orbit of debris.

Space debris. Source: ESA

New competition from Anousheh Ansari

On June 23, during a panel discussion at the Fourth Space Stability Summit, Anousheh Ansari, Executive Director of the X Prize Foundation, made a statement important for all startups in the field of rocket engineering. A former astronaut and a well-known activist in the field of space science has announced a new competition dedicated to cleaning the orbit of debris.

According to Ansari, the final scheme of the new competition has not yet been developed. Currently, the fund is considering three main tasks for which companies will be able to receive a prize. The first of them is to get rid of the last stage of the launch vehicle. These objects are the largest pieces of space debris in orbit. And the foundation considers the possibility of rewarding startups for performing this task in the first place.

The second possible task is to de-orbit space debris the size of a cubesat or more. It is quite possible that someone will get it too. The third task is the most difficult. It consists in the elimination of small debris, including the wreckage of destroyed spacecraft.

Anousheh Ansari is announcing a competition. Source: Secure World Foundation webcast

It is quite interesting that such an initiative came from the foundation next week after the ISS had to once again evade space debris, which was formed as a result of the Russians testing anti-satellite weapons. This topic has remained “hot” throughout the last months. The United States is trying to solve it through bans, but Russia and China are insanely resisting them.

Why is the X Prize competition so important

The X Prize Foundation plays a leading role in the development of modern private space. It was founded in 1992 to help space startups. The first major competition announced by the foundation was the Ansari X Prize. It provided for a USD 10 million reward for the first private company to launch a manned spacecraft into space.

In 2004, Richard Branson received this prize, which resulted in the founding of Virgin Galactic. Then there were several more prizes in industries that are not directly related to space, and finally, in 2007, the foundation announced a Google Lunar X PRIZE competition for a startup that by 2018 would be the first to lower a rover to the surface of the Moon, drive it at least 500 meters and transmit images to Earth. 

This prize remained without a host. But several companies, such as Astrobotic and Ispace, continue to work on projects and, quite possibly, a private rover will go to the Moon thanks to the incentive received from Anousheh Ansari.

So even if the prize for cleaning the orbit also remains without a host, this does not mean that the competition failed. It is quite possible that the work on solving the tasks set will lead to the creation of new companies that will give people new opportunities in space.

According to spacenews.com

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