‘Gas Station in Space’ – A New Proposal to Convert Space Junk Into Rocket Fuel

"An Australian company is part of an international effort to recycle dangerous space junk into rocket fuel — in space," reports the Guardian. Slashdot reader votsalo shared their report (which also looks at some of the other companies working on the problem of space debris). South Australian company Neumann Space has developed an "in-space electric propulsion system" that can be used in low Earth orbit to extend the missions of spacecraft, move satellites, or de-orbit them. Now Neumann is working on a plan with three other companies to turn space junk into fuel for that propulsion system... Another U.S. company, Cislunar, is developing a space foundry to melt debris into metal rods. And Neumann Space's propulsion system can use those metal rods as fuel — their system ionises the metal which then creates thrust to move objects around orbit. Chief executive officer Herve Astier said when Neumann was approached to be part of a supply chain to melt metal in space, he thought it was a futuristic plan, and would not be "as easy as it looks". "But they got a grant from NASA so we built a prototype and it works," he said... Astier says it is still futuristic, but now he can see that it's possible. "A lot of people are putting money into debris. Often it's to take it down into the atmosphere and burn it up. But if it's there and you can capture it and reuse it, it makes sense from a business perspective, because you're not shipping it up there," he said. "It's like developing a gas station in space."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.