Privateer will not head into space junk cleaning: Steve Wozniak and Alex Fielding will first get a clear idea about the dangers lurking in LEO by mapping it

Privateer Space Junk Mapping Garbage Cleaning
Know what to clean and where to clean. Pic credit: Beechwood Photography/Flickr

Steve Wozniak and Alex Fielding have been quietly working on Privateer, a company believed to trying to clean junk orbiting Earth. However, the duo’s startup will first map the objects in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) before announcing ‘Garbage Day’.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak sent out a cryptic Tweet, with an equally confusing video, it seemed his new startup would be cleaning space debris currently orbiting Earth. It is Privateer’s long-term goal, but the company’s immediate concern is creating a map of all the LEO.

Fielding and Wozniak’s Privateer to offer a clearer idea about space junk currently hurtling across the Earth in the Low Earth Orbit:

Space is certainly the next fruiteater for private organizations. While multiple governments have sent hundreds of satellites into space, many businesses are planning to send thousands.

Many private space companies, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, are rushing to capitalize from space. However, nearly every manmade object that goes to space becomes garbage after its service life is over.

Many government satellites do have a preinstalled algorithm that slowly changes their trajectory so that they start entering Earth’s atmosphere at the end of their lifespan. However, in 2019, NASA called LEO, “the World’s largest garbage dump,” with nearly 6,000 tons of waste. The agency is currently monitoring 27,000 pieces of larger space junk.

The problem about space junk has become so huge, there needs to be a systematic approach to addressing the same. There are several Orbital cleanup companies, but none have a clear idea about objects orbiting in the LEO, claimed Fielding:

“Orbital cleanup companies, they don’t have a resolution, or we don’t agree on where almost any object in low Earth orbit is with greater accuracy than maybe three or 400 kilometers on any given moment.”

Fielding and Wozniak are reportedly trying to address this lack of accurate knowledge with their new company, Privateer.

Privateer aims to become the Google Maps of Space:

The number of active and defunct satellites around the Earth has increased from 3300 to over 7600 in the last decade alone. Companies like Blue Origin, SpaceX, OneWeb, and others aggressively putting their small, mini, and microsatellites in LEO.

There could be as many as 100,000 satellites before 2030. Add to this number the dead and defunct satellites and other space junk such as booster rockets.

The primary purpose of Privateer is to create a higher resolution map of LEO, indicated Fielding:

“Privateer actually got started, not with the goal of cleaning up space on day one. We really got started with the goal of building […] the Google Maps of space.”

Privateer will be sending up its first satellite, dubbed “Pono 1,” in February 2022. The satellite will have 42 sensors (30 optical, and 12 optical).

The non-optical sensors will be capable of a precision of as much as 4 microns. Pono 1 will only stay up for four months.

After its service life, Privateer will deorbit the satellite and will vaporize in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The second satellite, Pono 2, should go up in April 2022.

In addition to the satellites, Privateer is also working with Astroscale, an orbital logistics and servicing startup. This could be the business arm that would aid in space junk removal.

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