Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has started a private space company called Privateer. It could be the first privately-owned company that will tackle the increasingly problematic “space junk” issue.
After Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, it is Steve Wozniak who is eyeing space as the next frontier for private enterprises. But the Apple Inc. co-founder is not thinking of space internet or colonizing Mars. Instead, Wozniak will help clean up space garbage.
Does Space needs cleaning?
Many private space companies, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, are rushing to capitalize from space. Previously, several governments have launched their own satellites.
The Space, and more specifically speaking, the area just outside the Earth’s atmosphere is called Low Earth Orbit. It is by far the most active area for manmade satellites.
Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak is starting a mysterious space company called Privateer, possibly to clean up debris https://t.co/BtiMLTBTVR
— John Applegate (@JohnApp63499667) September 14, 2021
Every manmade or artificial object has a fixed, usable lifespan. Any device that humans have sent to space eventually becomes useless.
Simply put, the Low Earth Orbit or LEO is now a dumping ground for dead satellites and launch vehicle rockets. Collectively, this dead junk is called space debris.
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, there are thousands of small manmade objects that are still rotating in LEO.
The @Space_Station has maneuvered 3 times in 2020 to avoid debris. In the last 2 weeks, there have been 3 high concern potential conjunctions. Debris is getting worse! Time for Congress to provide @CommerceGov with the $15 mil requested by @POTUS for the Office of Space Commerce.
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) September 22, 2020
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.
Needless to say, this is a minuscule amount. Moreover, small pieces, hurtling up to seven times faster than a bullet, can be deadly to humans and active equipment in space.
It is simply a miracle that space garbage hasn’t caused catastrophic damage yet. In fact, former NASA scientist Donald Kessler reportedly said that space is “long overdue” for catastrophe.
How will Steve Wozniak’s Privateer clean up space debris?
Privateer is describing itself as a “satellite company focused on monitoring and cleaning up objects in space”. Mr. Wozniak reportedly said, “the team at Privateer Space will be able to achieve the affordability and light-weighting capabilities needed to pave the way for our satellite design and launch.”
A Private space company is starting up, unlike the others. https://t.co/6s8J32mjuF
— Steve Wozniak (@stevewoz) September 13, 2021
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. Hence, there could be as many as 100,000 satellites before 2030.
The majority of these satellites are merely exacerbating the already serious issue of space garbage. It is not clear exactly which technology Privateer will use to clean the debris.
The Privateer website offers no contact information. The contact form isn’t processing requests, yet. The company could offer more information at the AMOS Tech 2021 conference.