The first space garbage truck will be able to clean up garbage by hugging it

Britain's first space garbage truck will be able to pick up trash with a 'bear hug' or become

the robotic equivalent of a garbage collector.The two methods are offered by companies competing for a UK contract to launch a cleanup mission as early as 2026. The winning prototype would track down and capture the two failed satellites, then eject them into the atmosphere, where they would burn up.

Rory Holmes of ClearSpace, one ofcompetitors, Sky News told Sky News: “For the past six decades, we have been launching satellites into space without much thought about what happens at the end of their lives. When they run out of fuel or break, we just throw them away. We leave them, and they, in turn, fill the cosmic orbital space. We're in a situation right now where this space is quite congested, and all these different "dead" objects are running around, crossing each other's paths, sometimes colliding, and sometimes really interfering with what we want to do in space."

ClearSpace is developing a spaceship that looks a bit like a giant squid, with lots of tentacles. Holmes calls it a "bear hug".

"We must find a way to capture and fixthese objects so that they do not rotate and cannot change their position in space,” he said. “One of the advantages of the mechanism we have is that we can completely wrap around the object before we firmly fix it to make sure that it cannot escape and cannot fly off in a direction that we do not expect.”

Another Oxfordshire-based company, Astroscale, will use a spacecraft with a long robotic arm to grab debris.

Jason Forshaw, head of the company's division, said developing a spacecraft that could evaluate and capture a failed satellite was a huge challenge.

“The first task is to inspect the wreckage when you get thereget there to see what condition they are in. The second stage is to actually approach the satellite and fix it. This requires sophisticated robotics,” says Forshaw.

The spacecraft will have to operate autonomously. Radio signals from ground control would arrive too late with such a fast moving satellite.

Astroscale hopes satellite makerswill begin to add a standardized docking plate to their designs to make it easier to secure another spacecraft, either for refueling and maintenance, or deorbiting.

According to the UK space agency,There are more than 130 million pieces of space debris in Earth's orbit, from tiny blobs of paint to old satellites, spent rocket bodies and even tools dropped by astronauts.

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