Major Tim Peake drops in to show support for Edinburgh rocket firm Skyrora’s space junk mission

Edinburgh rocket company Skyrora - based in the city’s Princes Street - is calling on the UK space industry to help it find Prospero, the first British satellite launched by a British rocket, and remove it from orbit.

Volodymyr Levykin, chief executive of Skyrora, was joined by British astronaut Major Tim Peake at the launch of ‘Finding Prospero’.

Volodymyr Levykin, chief executive of Skyrora, was joined by British astronaut Major Tim Peake at the launch of ‘Finding Prospero’ which aims to tackle the growing problem of ‘space junk’ which is one of the biggest issues facing the global space industry.

It is estimated there are more than 170 million pieces of defunct satellite debris and fragments of metal debris still orbiting the earth long after their missions have been completed.

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These can pose a potential danger by colliding with satellites currently being being sent into space.

The company will use its own Space Tug orbital transfer vehicle (OTV) - sometimes dubbed a ‘space tug’ - in what could be its first real-world deployment to find Prospero and tackle space junk.

Prospero was launched on the Black Arrow rocket from Woomera, southern Australia on 28 October 1971 with signals still being received back on Earth in 2004.

Describing the purpose of the mission, Mr Levykin said: “It’s over 50 years since the UK launched a British satellite into orbit from a British rocket.

“The UK is a world leader in space technology, and today as a country we are embarking on a new chapter of space innovation.

“By recovering Prospero, we are not only coming together as a space nation and taking responsibility for what we have launched into orbit, but also confirming our commitment to the sustainable use of outer space.”

Mr Levykin wants space companies and the Westminster Government to develop a viable technical plan to move the project to its next stage.

It is also hoped the mission will inspire future generation of students to aim for a career in the space industry.

Former International Space Station (ISS) crew member Major Timothy Nigel “Tim” Peake is the seventh UK-born person to have travelled into space and the first British ESA astronaut.

Major Tim was launched to the ISS on December 15, 2015.

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