Privateer Plans to Launch Satellites to Study Space Debris

18th November 2021: Privateer, a Hawaii-based start-up company of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, announced its plans to send satellites for studying space debris. The company wants to study the ever-increasing population of space debris by adopting a wide variety of data such as observations and crowdsourced information collected by its own satellite fleet.

The Earth orbit is becoming overcrowded with space debris. As per the European Space Agency (ESA), approximately 4,700 active satellites are currently zooming around the planet. ESA also forecasts that Earth orbit houses around 36,500 hunks of debris and these are even bigger than a softball. There are about 330 million debris shards that are bigger than 0.04 inches, but smaller than 0.4 inches, whereas a whopping 1 million that fall between 0.4 inches and 4 inches. Due to their extreme speed, even the smallest junk can either seriously damage or completely destroy a satellite. Orbital velocity, for instance, at an altitude of 400 kilometers, is about 27,500 kph where the International Space Station (ISS) flies.

Privateer has analyzed every available record regarding space debris to send several hundreds of satellites in space. According to Chief Scientific Adviser Moriba Jah, the company will not be launching all those hundred satellites together, but gradually in the near future. Experts have also mentioned that humanity may soon be at the doorstep of Kessler Syndrome. It refers to a rapid increase in space junk, in which a mere collision generates more and more debris. They fear that this cascade may already have started in space.

Several collisions have taken place in the orbit. In February 2009, for instance, Cosmos 2251, the dead Russian satellite collided with the operational Iridium 33 communications craft. The incident generated more than 2,000 pieces of debris, including thousands of smaller objects that are 4 inches wide. Similarly, China intentionally blasted one of its dead weather satellites in January 2007, generating 3,000 debris. The very recent case is of November 2021, when Russia destroyed a dead satellite in an Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test.

According to officials of Privateer, the issue of debris is getting worse day by day. In the upcoming years, the orbit of Earth is anticipated to get a lot more crowded. Thus, it wants to help various private companies and the U.S. military to develop a ‘Google Maps of Space.’ The company will be analyzing vital data to send satellites.

Furthermore, Privateer is aiming to make the orbit a safer and better understood place to operate over the long haul. It is planning to buy crucial information, gather some using its satellites, and crowdsource some of it. In February 2022, the company will launch its first satellite in space.

By Ulhas