Privateer chief science adviser, Moriba Jah, says the company will keep governments accountable by tracking space junk in orbit
Apple co-founder Steven Wozniak’s Privateer aims to help the powers at be make better decisions to ensure space is safe, secure and sustainable, and it plans to do so by creating a ‘Waze for space.’
The company’s chief science adviser, Moriba Jah, told DailyMail.com in a phone interview that Privateer will rely on crowdsourcing from all types of technology – both on the ground and in space- to track and predict the path of space junk.
This, according to Jah, will help keep governments accountable buy providing proof of who is at fault in the event a piece of their discarded technology wreaks havoc in the final frontier
‘There is a lot of he said, she said [when it comes to space junk floating in orbit], especially with what happened with the Russian satellite,’ said Jah.
‘I think it is total bull*** and is very aggravating and frustrating any which way you slice it. Nothing positive came out of this flexing in orbit with [Russia] destroying its satellite,’ said Jah.
‘However, the US government came out early condemning Russia for what happened.
‘I am not saying it wasn’t true, it is, but we need to move away from the he said, she said and provide evidence.’
The Hawaii-based company, announced by Wozniak and co-founder Alex Fielding in September, wants to identify, catalogue and track each piece of space junk floating around Earth.
The European Space Agency (ESA) estimates there are at least 36,500 of debris larger than a softball in orbit, but there are probably one million pieces between 0.4 inches and four inches.
And the ESA says there is likely a whopping 330 million that are smaller than 0.4 inches.
Jah, who is also an associate professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at The University of Texas at Austin, said to track all space junk, Privateer plans to launch a ‘few hundred satellites’ into its constellation.
‘It will begin February prono 1, a prototype, which will be a demonstrator with sensors,’ said Jah.
‘The idea is to make space more transparent, make it more predictable, by knowing where space junk will be over the next few minutes and hours.
‘We will be able to predict how two objects from two different governments will act, before there is a reason to worry.’
He also notes that the company will rely on other sources, such as telescopes, satellites and armature astronomers who are willing to search for and report space junk findings.
This work from Privateer will help avoid troubles in space, similar to what happened this week when Russia blew up its satellite that nearly hit the International Space Station (ISS).
Russia blew up one of its own satellites on Monday using a missile using what US analysts believe was an A-235 PL-19 Nudol ‘satellite killer’ missile.
Russia blew up one of its own satellites on Monday using a missile using what US analysts believe was an A-235 PL-19 Nudol ‘satellite killer’ missile. Cosmos 1408, a defunct spy satellite launched in 1982, was the destroyed target, which resulted in a field of 1,500 pieces of debris endangering the crew of the ISS
Cosmos 1408, a defunct spy satellite launched in 1982, was the destroyed target, which resulted in a field of 1,500 pieces of debris endangering the crew of the ISS.
The satellite was orbiting around 300 miles from Earth’s surface at the time, and created a debris field between 270 miles and 320 miles from the surface.
ISS orbits around 260 miles from the surface, though on Monday was slightly lower at 250 miles, meaning the debris passed over it by a distance of about 20 miles as their orbits crossed.
Astronauts aboard the ISS were ordered by Houston Mission Control to get to safety inside the ship’s escape pods.
WHAT IS SPACE JUNK? MORE THAN 170 MILLION PIECES OF DEAD SATELLITES, SPENT ROCKETS AND FLAKES OF PAINT POSE ‘THREAT’ TO SPACE INDUSTRY
There are an estimated 170 million pieces of so-called ‘space junk’ – left behind after missions that can be as big as spent rocket stages or as small as paint flakes – in orbit alongside some US$700 billion (£555bn) of space infrastructure.
But only 27,000 are tracked, and with the fragments able to travel at speeds above 16,777 mph (27,000kmh), even tiny pieces could seriously damage or destroy satellites.
However, traditional gripping methods don’t work in space, as suction cups do not function in a vacuum and temperatures are too cold for substances like tape and glue.
Grippers based around magnets are useless because most of the debris in orbit around Earth is not magnetic.
Around 500,000 pieces of human-made debris (artist’s impression) currently orbit our planet, made up of disused satellites, bits of spacecraft and spent rockets
Most proposed solutions, including debris harpoons, either require or cause forceful interaction with the debris, which could push those objects in unintended, unpredictable directions.
Scientists point to two events that have badly worsened the problem of space junk.
The first was in February 2009, when an Iridium telecoms satellite and Kosmos-2251, a Russian military satellite, accidentally collided.
The second was in January 2007, when China tested an anti-satellite weapon on an old Fengyun weather satellite.
Experts also pointed to two sites that have become worryingly cluttered.
One is low Earth orbit which is used by satnav satellites, the ISS, China’s manned missions and the Hubble telescope, among others.
The other is in geostationary orbit, and is used by communications, weather and surveillance satellites that must maintain a fixed position relative to Earth.