Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s startup company, Privateer, reportedly plans to launch hundreds of satellites to study space debris. With more than a million pieces of space junk orbiting the Earth, mapping space debris is important to the future of space exploration.
Space.com reports that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s startup, Privateer, is trying to gather information about space debris and plans to do so with the launch of hundreds of satellites. Privateer is a Hawaii-based company founded by Wozniak and Alex Fielding in September. The company aims to characterize the expanding population of space debris around the planet.
Privateer plans to incorporate a variety of data, including crowdsourced information and data obtained by its satellite fleet. Privateer Chief Scientific Adviser Moriba Jah told Space.com: “I think we’re looking at several hundred satellites. We won’t launch all several hundred at once; we’ll just slowly build it up.”
The European Space Agency (ESA) estimated that Earth’s orbit contains at least 36,500 chunks of debris that are larger than 4 inches wide. It’s likely that there are around 1 million debris shards between 0.4 inches and 4 inches wide according to the ESA.
These objects are dangerous as they can easily destroy or damage a satellite due to the high speeds at which they travel. At an altitude of 250 miles, debris can move as fast as 17,100 miles per hour. Some scientists worry that humanity may be in danger of something called the Kessler Syndrome, which is a snowballing cyclone of space junk in which collisions create even more debris.
Privateer plans to build and analyze a huge dataset of debris that contains information from multiple sources. Moriba Jah, who is also an associate professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin, commented: “We want to basically be a company that’s focused on decision intelligence by aggregating massive quantities of disparate and heterogeneous information, because there’s something to be gained in the numbers.”