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Elon Musk's Starship Could Be the Pacman of Space and "Chomp Up" the Space Junk

With more than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris of varying sizes being tracked by the Department of Defense's global Space Surveillance Network, our planet is getting slowly suffocated by our leftover garbage. To that, Elon Musk might have a solution: he says that SpaceX's Starship could "chomp up" space junk with its moving fairing door while flying around space.
Rendering of SpaceX's Starship spacecraft 6 photos
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Space debris is no joke as it could threaten space exploration. It has been theorized that if the chance of collision with an object becomes too great, Earth orbit may become inaccessible. Collecting the junk that is circling Earth at incredible speeds will not only help human spaceflight and robotic missions but will also lower the risk of communications satellites being damaged.

One Twitter user questioned SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Saturday, July 4th, if the company has explored any mechanism to collect space debris in the future, "since it could directly affect its business in the future if it gets out of control." Musk replied to that, saying that Starship could "fly around space and chomp up debris with the moving fairing door."

The idea is not exactly new. Last year in October, in an interview to Time, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said that "it's quite possible we could leverage Starship to go to some of these dead rocket bodies — other people's rockets of course — basically go pick up some of this junk in outer space."

While Starship is currently a prototype, the spacecraft's final version is expected to be 120 meters (394 feet) long. To put it into perspective, that is much taller than the Statue of Liberty. It's a two-stage vehicle with a stainless steel hull and a 9-meter (30 ft) diameter that consists of the Super Heavy rocket (booster) and the Starship (spacecraft) (30 ft). It may not be easy to collect space junk using the spacecraft, but Shotwell believes that it is possible.

In a video released by VideoFromSpace of the National Space Society's International Space Development Conference (ISDC) on June 25th, she said that SpaceX is "shooting for July" for the first orbital launch of the company's Starship vehicle. As July is already here, we'll have yet to see if SpaceX will meet the target.


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