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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Private companies may soon surpass the government in their ability to track thousands of pieces of space junk that put satellites in danger and could cause millions of dollars in damage.
The big picture: Hundreds of satellites are expected to launch to orbit in the next few years, greatly increasing the number of spacecraft circling Earth.
The intrigue: The Air Force is able to follow more than 20,000 pieces of space junk and satellites, but NASA estimates there are millions of other tiny pieces of untracked debris that could harm working satellites.
What's happening: A handful of companies are now trying to make a profit by tracking satellites and space junk.
Yes, but: The best way to figure out where exactly all of the junk in orbit is may be to combine data from multiple sources and aggregate it in one place.
Artist's illustration of Axiom's space station modules. Image: Axiom Space
Axiom Space wants to build a space station for a new age of exploration, and last week, the Houston-based company started moving ahead with its plans in earnest.
The big picture: NASA wants to foster commercial enterprise in orbit so it becomes a user, not a provider, of services, freeing up the agency to focus on its broader goals like flying people to the Moon and Mars.
Details: Axiom expects to launch its first module to the station by the second half of 2024, with a habitation module coming about six months later and a manufacturing module launching six months after that, Axiom co-founder Michael Suffredini told Axios.
But, but, but: Axiom's business is potentially risky. The company will face a number of technical challenges around getting its station up and running, and the demand for a private space station in orbit isn't yet well understood.
Artist's illustration of the Solar Orbiter. Image: NASA/NASA Goddard
A new mission expected to launch to space from Florida on Sunday will give scientists an unprecedented view of the Sun.
Why it matters: Despite decades of studying our closest star, scientists still can't accurately predict our Sun's behavior — when it will eject solar flares, sprout sunspots or how the solar wind works.
Details: The spacecraft will snap photos of the Sun's poles for the first time, hopefully helping researchers figure out how the star's magnetic field is generated and what drives the solar wind.
What to watch: Solar Orbiter data will complement information gathered by the Parker Solar Probe, which launched in 2018.
The surface of the Sun. Photo: NSO/AURA/NSF
A small rocket maker is running a different kind of space race (Ashlee Vance, Bloomberg)
Why is this Russian spacecraft suddenly stalking a secret U.S. spy satellite? (David Axe, The Daily Beast)
Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa calls off TV search for Moon trip "life partner" (Mihir Zaveri, New York Times)
New telescope takes highest-resolution photo of the Sun's surface (Axios)
Spacewalks are busy for astronauts making repairs outside the International Space Station, but there's usually time for a quick selfie.
Flashback: Parmitano had a scary moment in 2013 when his helmet started to fill with water during a spacewalk, forcing him to rush back to the airlock to remove his suit.
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