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NASA is funding an ultra-thin way to deal with space junk

NASA has its eyes set on an ultra-thin way to deal with all the junk floating around space. The space agency awarded a second round of funding to the Brane Craft, a thin ‘sheet’ of sorts from Aerospace Corporation that works by wrapping around junk, driving it down through the atmosphere so that it’ll eventually burn up, solving the waste problem.

Humans are highly capable of getting stuff to space, but we’re not quite there yet when it comes to efficiently retrieving it. For this reason, space is full of junk that floats around, some of it eventually falling back to Earth to burn up, but the rest languishing. Various solutions have been proposed and developed over the years on how to deal with this junk, and the Brane Craft is the latest among them.

NASA recently pushed this concept into a second funding round, explainingthat it is ‘essentially [a] two-dimensional spacecraft with integrated solar cells, power system, communications, command and control, altitude determination, altitude control, electric propulsion, and space control systems.’ That’s a lot of technology to pack into something that looks like a floating quilt.

According to Space.com, the Brane Craft is under half the diameter of a strand of human hair, making it exceptionally thin. This makes it vulnerable, but the company behind the product has designed it to withstand certain amounts of damage, having only parts fail upon impact rather than entire systems.

When put to use, dozens of these sheets can be deployed at once, each with their own bit of space junk to find and destroy. The lightweight nature means the spacecraft takes up little space and has a very low weight. Thanks to this second round of funding, Aerospace has a couple more years of work to put into developing the film.

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