SpaceX, ULA Set to Launch 4 Robots to Grab Space Junk, Fix Satellites
- A US startup plans to launch four robots on SpaceX and ULA rockets next year.
- Rogue Space Systems’ robots will perform different tasks, such as repairing satellites and dealing with space debris.
- The Rogue CEO told Insider that the space junk problem is getting worse as more rockets enter orbit.
An American space startup plans to launch orbital robots next year on Elon Musk’s SpaceX and United Launch Alliance rockets.
New Hampshire-based Rogue Space Systems has four robots in production, all designed to perform different tasks in orbit to support satellites and clean up space junk.
Orbital debris has become a big problem for the space industry. As more launches take place, more and more junk, including spare rocket parts and failed satellites, floats in space. This creates a collision risk. Some objects even re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, falling to the ground.
Rogue founder and CEO Jeromy Grimmett told Insider he found a solution: space robots.
“We’re building R2D2, but it’s real,” he said, referring to the popular “Star Wars” character.
Rogue has contracted launch provider Exolaunch for two launches, each of which will carry two robots, Grimmett said. Later, there will be one launch on a ULA spacecraft through a partnership with the U.S. Space Force, and another with SpaceX, both with a robot on board.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. Exolaunch confirmed the launch with Insider.
The earliest launch is scheduled for February, with another in May, Grimmett said.
Meet the space robot
Grimmett said Rogue named its bots after people close to certain employees. And Barry, one of Rogue’s smaller robots, is named after the bat that flies around the office.
“We’re trying to put a little bit of ourselves into it,” Grimit said of the robot.
Barry will be Rogue’s first robot to be released into space. Once in orbit, it will inspect and monitor the object or deploy satellites to keep an eye on it, according to Grimit.
Laura is Rogue’s most excited space robot, Grimit said, adding that it’s designed to diagnose and operate on other objects or satellites in orbit.
According to Grimit, Charlie is still in the early stages of production, but will have abilities similar to Lara’s.
Meanwhile, Grimmett said, Rogue plans to have a 325-kilogram robot in space, Fred, in late 2023 or early 2024, with four robotic arms capable of moving satellites and other objects in and out of different orbits.
Some of Rogue’s robots will attach a tether to an object and drag it into orbit, Grimmett said, and then drag it toward the atmosphere, where it should burn up. This process speeds up the object’s descent. For example, an object that could take three years to deorbit could take eight months, he said.
space junk problem
There are currently more than 130 million pieces of space debris around the Earth. European Space Agency. These objects travel about 10 times faster than bullets, and when they collide, they create more debris, exacerbating the space junk problem.
“We’re installing these rockets all over the world,” Grimit said. “It’s beyond our ability to clean ourselves up.”
It’s not all doom and gloom, but it’s getting worse, he said. Rogue’s space robots can be put in place to keep things from getting out of hand, and they have scrapping plans so they don’t end up being their own space debris.
Of course, four robots helping to clean up so much space is a small amount. “We will continue to build as many Space Forces and as many as our commercial customers require,” Grimt said.