In March of 2015, I wrote about creating the structure to sustain a growing permanent economy that centered on catering to the needs personnel in orbital, Moon and asteroid mining operations. One of the aspects of the orbital operations was the clean up of the ever growing amount of space debris.
I wrote “Another possible customer would be the company or companies that are paid to remove the millions of pieces of orbital debris that currently endanger our satellites, ISS, etc. This problem will only get worse as we increase the use of space so there will definitely be one or more companies that get multi-billion dollar contracts for removing that danger. Whether the vehicles used to intercept that debris are autonomous/teleoperated or manned, they will need maintenance, fuel, etc.”
It appears that some progress is being made on the development of that operational capability:
There is a ever-growing amount of space debris that threatens valuable satellites on a daily basis.
NASA and DARPA are working together to come up with a “Robot Satellite Service” vehicle:
The two federal agencies are also working on the design of refueling satellites. Between the clean up of space debris and the repair, maintenance and refueling of various types of satellites, there should be enough business for a Bigelow-type Space Station. The station would be the home base for manned or unmanned satellite repair vehicles. The fuel needed by the station, combined with the ISS fuel needs, would greatly increase the business case for mining water from the Moon. So this small step towards repairing and refueling satellites could lead to the giant leap of a viable economic model for large scale human space activities.