COLORADO SPRINGS – It would cost a little under $4 million to retrieve the 24-kilogram Thor Altair rocket body from low-Earth orbit.
The price tag for nabbing NASA’s defunct Cosmic Background Explorer, weighing in at 2245 kilograms, is $62.5 million, according to a deck of cards Kall Morris Inc. handed out at the 38th Space Symposium.
KMI, a Michigan-based startup focused on space debris remediation, printed cards to show prices the company will charge for grabbing space junk. Each of the 52 cards shows a U.S.-owned object along with its mass, launch date and North American Aerospace Defense Command catalog number.
In spite of growing concern about space debris, there is a lack of information on what it would cost to begin solving the problem, Troy Morris, KMI co-founder and director of operations, told SpaceNews.
Proving it works
KMI is working to prove its technology can remove debris from orbit. Testing on the ground has been conducted with funding from the Space Force’s Orbital Prime program.
In addition, KMI plans to conduct a 2024 International Space Station demonstration of its mechanically articulated end effector on an Astrobee, one of NASA’s free-flying robots.
“Inside the ISS, we’ll prove out the mechanism to nondestructively capture debris and then release it again,” Troy Morris said. “We can do iterative testing with the crew.”
Austin Morris, KMI co-founder and engineering director, and Troy’s brother, said, “We can change out the face plates for the capture object, swap out with different materials and different surface geometries to give us a wide range of testing and demonstrations.”
$14 million bonus
To determine the prices for capturing specific objects in orbit, KMI “looked at the cost of our spacecraft, the cost of the missions, where these objects are located and the mass of the objects,” Troy Morris said. “All of that information combined gives us an idea of how much would it cost to retrieve an object.”
KMI also is advertising its capability to retrieve multiple objects.
“If there are multiple smaller-cost objects that add up to $14 million, we can get those multiple objects with a single spacecraft,” Troy Morris said.