Sustainability guidelines could help solve the growing problem of trash in space

Not content with trashing our own planet, it seems that humanity has caused a growing problem with space debris as well. As we rely increasingly on satellites for everything from weather forecasting to navigation, humans have fired more and more of them into orbit — which is now filled with discarded satellites, upper stages of rockets, and assorted other bits of space junk as a result.

There are a number of inventive research projects that aim to find ways to pluck this orbiting trash out of the cold expanse of space. However, a better, more suitable solution would involve making sure that we stop polluting in this way to begin with. With that in mind, a new set of “Space Sustainability Rating” guidelines aims to ensure that future satellite operators and space launches comply with special mitigation rules laid out by the so-called Space Debris Office (yes, that’s a real thing!)

The guidelines are being developed by the World Economic Forum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, and European Space Agency (ESA) based on a concept initiated by the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Space Technologies.

“There are numerous debris reduction and mitigation guidelines that can be applied at the design, manufacturing, launching, operating, or disposal stage of any mission, but the challenge has been getting the global community to apply these in a consistent way,” said Holger Krag, head of ESA’s Space Debris Office, in a statement.

According to the organizations involved, there are currently upward of 22,000 debris objects in orbit that are regularly tracked using radar and other methods. Colliding with any of these could damage or destroy a functioning satellite. That’s the case even when the debris is tiny, since their extremely high speeds make them into projectiles similar to bullets that are able to inflict amounts of damage far beyond their small size. Last year, ESA-operated satellites had to conduct 27 debris avoidance maneuvers, and that number is only expected to grow on a year-by-year basis.

Abiding by these guidelines will almost certainly add to the cost or reduce the life span of future satellites. As a result, calls for such rules in the past have typically been met with resistance. If something is going to be done about this issue, however, it’s important to get all involved on the same page. Hopefully that’s exactly what these guidelines will accomplish.

Gaming

A new bill could outlaw loot boxes in video games. Here’s what it says

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri is making noise with his newly proposed bill that aims to tackle pay-to-win micro-transactions and loot boxes in video games played by kids. But what would the bill do, exactly?
Product Review

Can the Samsung Space Monitor save you from your cluttered desk?

High-concept monitors can sometimes over-complicate thing. Samsung's Space Monitor, however, tries to fix that problem by lifting the monitor off and away from your desk.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk thinks Starlink satellite internet could be online before 2021

Elon Musk's ultra-ambitious Starlink space internet project may take until November 2027 to be fully operational. However, some level of service could be offered as soon as next year.
Gaming

PlayStation Productions is taking inspiration from Disney’s Marvel films

Sony announced PlayStation Productions, a studio dedicated to bringing the gaming properties to film and television. The new studio is aiming to model things after Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Huawei updates, Starlink launch, and Pac-Man’s birthday

On this episode of DT Live, we discuss the ongoing Huawei saga, Amazon’s social games for workers, Ford's partnership with a robotics company, the Starlink satellite launch, Pac-Man’s birthday, and more.
Emerging Tech

Las Vegas officials bet big on Elon Musk’s Boring Company

Elon Musk’s Boring Company has just been awarded a $48.6 million contract by Las Vegas to build a high-speed transportation system beneath the city’s enormous convention center, and it could be ready by early 2020.
Emerging Tech

I mainlined a bag of liquid vitamins — for science

Healthy people are signing up for treatments that are typically saved for patients stuck in hospital beds. Known as nutrient IV therapy, the treatment entails pumping vitamins, minerals, and fluids directly into the bloodstream, bypassing…
Emerging Tech

Airbus shows off the futuristic interior of its autonomous flying taxi

Airbus has given us the first look inside its single-seat flying taxi. The absence of controls in the Vahana electric aircraft is a reflection of its autonomous capabilities, so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Emerging Tech

Future smart clothes promise to keep you the perfect temperature at all times

Regulating your body temperature can sometimes be tough. Engineers from UC San Diego have developed heating and cooling wearable tech which could be embedded into future smart clothing.
Emerging Tech

Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 aborts marker drop mission

The Hayabusa 2 spacecraft's mission to drop a reflective marker on the surface of asteroid Ryugu has been aborted. The Japanese team was considering a second touchdown on the asteroid to collect more materials, but this now seems unlikely.
Emerging Tech

Whose name should we etch on the Mars 2020 rover? NASA wants a vote

Dream of making it to Mars? NASA has opened up a new public outreach program to let people send their names to the Red Planet, as an engraving on a silicon chip launched with the Mars 2020 rover.
Emerging Tech

Watch live as SpaceX tries, for the third time, to launch 60 Starlink satellites

SpaceX is having another go at launching the first 60 satellites for its ultra-ambitious Starlink internet constellation. Here's how you can tune in live to watch it all go down today.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX joins internet-from-space race with launch of 60 Starlink satellites

SpaceX has launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying its first batch of Starlink satellites for its ambitious internet-from-space project. The payload, SpaceX's heaviest to date, successfully deployed an hour after liftoff.
Emerging Tech

What would it take to build a Matrix-level simulation of reality?

What would it take, technologically speaking, to build a real version of the Matrix? We definitely don't have the technical abilities to do that now, but we're rapidly approaching the point that we will. In this article, MIT computer…