A research project on the exploration of asteroids and the sustainable use of space has received funding from the European Union (EU).

The €4m funding was provided through the EU Horizon2020 programme’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Initial Training Networks (ITN).

Named Stardust Reloaded, the project is led by University of Strathclyde professor Massimiliano Vasile.

The project will look at the evolution of the environment around Earth and how the growing traffic in space can be safely managed to avert collisions and enable the sustainable use of space.

To be carried out over a period of four years, the project also seeks to provide additional information on the shape, gravity, composition and dynamics of asteroids and comets.

“Asteroids and space debris represent a significant hazard for space and terrestrial assets, but also an opportunity.”

The information is expected to help prevent a catastrophic impact with the Earth, and how mineral resources on asteroids and comets could be used.

Vasile said: “There are so many people launching satellites now – particularly smaller and smaller ones – that the risk of collision, and with it the risk of setting off a cascade, is greatly increasing. With this project we aim to understand how the growth in satellites orbiting Earth affects the evolution of the space environment and how we can best manage that.

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“Asteroids and space debris represent a significant hazard for space and terrestrial assets, but also an opportunity.

“In the case of asteroids, we want to explore new ways of travelling to them, exploring them and characterising them with a view to understanding how we might exploit them with technologies still under development.”

Altogether 20 partners including the European, French and German space agencies are involved in the project, which will help provide funding to 15 early-stage career researchers.