Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s new company aims to track and categorize space debris by launching a fleet of satellites into orbit.
Manmade debris in Earth’s orbit is becoming a major concern and there are fears that the issue might snowball to a point at which space exploration becomes too hazardous.
Wozniak’s startup, called Privateer, aims to stave off this disastrous situation by keeping a close eye on existing debris.
Space debris becoming major concern
The issue of hazardous debris in space has received renewed attention lately after an old Soviet satellite was blown up by Russia in a test of its anti-satellite weapons technology.
The US government fears that this explosion could have spawned potentially thousands of new pieces of debris to contribute to a hazard which is already spreading.
Even the smallest bits of junk in space can be deadly to astronauts or satellites due to the extreme speeds at which they travel in orbit.
The European Space Agency has estimated that there are roughly 35,600 pieces of debris which are larger than a softball and potentially hundreds of millions of smaller pieces.
Even the tiniest bits of debris travel at a high enough velocity to cause serious damage if they strike any of the thousands of active satellites currently in orbit.
When debris slams into other debris it can smash into even more fragments. The sheer quantity of the resultant junk is enough to be major concern regardless of individual sizes.
“Google Maps of space”
Wozniak’s new company cannot hope to cut down on the amount of space junk any time soon but it does hope to minimize the risks faced in future launches.
The startup intends to ultimately launch several hundred satellites, though not all at once. The first of these launches is planned for early next year.
The aim is to produce as much data as possible with the aim of mapping debris and producing a kind of “Google Maps of space.”
Multiple existing organizations already track debris in orbit but none match the scale which Wozniak and Privateer have envisioned for their future.
The extent of the threat posed to human space exploration by debris in orbit is still not fully understood. Privateer hopes that its services will enable accurate assessments in the future.
As Earth’s orbit becomes more crowded that could become a valuable service for anyone hoping to launch anything into space.