NEO-01: China’s robot prototype to catch space debris

A Space Mining Startup of China recently launched NEO-01. It is a robotic platform launched into the low earth orbit. It will conduct experiments on space debris removal technique.

About NEO-01

  • The NEO-01 robot was launched on Long March 6 rocket.
  • It was launched to observe the small celestial bodies in deep space.
  • The robot will now conduct experiments to clear space debris.
  • It is to use large net to capture space debris. After capturing, it will burn the debris using electric propulsion system.

China-US hidden war in the project

The NEO-01 was developed by Origin Space. The company is based in Shenzen. The company claims itself as the first Chinese company dedicated to explore and utilise space resources. According to the company, NEO-01 will pave way for asteroid mining. These objectives of resource mining are in contradiction to Outer Space Treaty of the US.

According to 1967 Outer Space Treaty, no nation can claim the sovereignty of outer space. Also, no nation shall extract resources from space for commercial exploitation.

In 2015, the then US President Barack Obama signed a law that allowed the US companies to mine on celestial bodies. In 2020, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced a Lunar Mining Initiative. The initiative will offer to buy lunar rocks that are extracted by private companies. NEO-01 is seen as a counter move of China to the US.

Current Scenario

There are 3,000 defunct satellites in the orbit of the earth. Also, there are millions of smaller pieces of space debris that can cause serious damage to the other active satellites.  The debris range from bolts, paint flecks to frozen satellite coolants.

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