Elon Musk Says SpaceX Could Use Starship To 'Chomp Up Debris' Orbiting Earth

Elon Musk Says SpaceX Could Use Starship To 'Chomp Up Debris' Orbiting Earth

SpaceX's next-generation launch vehicle is a gigantic stainless-steel Starship that will become the world's most powerful rocket, capable of transporting 100 passengers and cargo to the Moon and Mars. Starship is under development at SpaceX's South Texas Starbase Facility located in Boca Chica Beach. The company has flown/tested multiple prototypes of the spacecraft and is preparing to conduct the first orbital flight this Summer. The Super Heavy rocket will propel Starship to orbit from Starbase, it will fly across Earth to land with a soft ocean landing off the northwest coast of Kauai in Hawaii. The ambitious flight test would last around 90 minutes and enable SpaceX engineers to learn about how Starship’s structural design, hardware, and software works in-flight to further develop the spacecraft.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said this week that Starship will also be capable of cleaning-up space junk orbiting Earth. On Saturday, July 3, a Twitter user asked him if SpaceX would ‘try to eventually collect space debris,’ to which Musk responded –“Yes, we can fly Starship around space & chomp up debris with the moving fairing door,” he wrote. The company is designing multiple Starship variants, one features a clamshell-like cargo door that could open to pick-up space junk, as pictured below.

Last year, SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell told TIME reporters in a video that Starship could potentially help clean up space. “Starship is an extraordinary new vehicle capability… Not only will it decrease the costs of access to space, it’s the vehicle that would transport people from Earth to Mars,” Shotwell said, “But it also has the capability of taking cargo and crew at the same time, and so it’s quite possible that we could leverage Starship to go to some of these dead rocket bodies — other people’s rocket’s, of course — basically pick up some of this junk in outer space,” she said. “There are rocket bodies littering the space environment, and dead satellites littering the space environment.”

Image Source: SpaceX Starship User Guide

“The Starship payload fairing is a clamshell structure in which the payload is integrated. Once integrated, the clamshell fairing remains closed through launch up until the payload is ready to deploy,” SpaceX said. This clamshell-like fairing could enable engineers to develop a machine to gather space junk and bring it back to Earth for proper disposal. –“It’s not easy. It’s not going to be easy but I do believe that Starship offers the possibility of going and doing that and I’m really excited about it,” Shotwell said.

Featured Image Source: SpaceX

About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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