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OneWeb founder Greg Wyler’s new startup wants to launch a “sustainable” satellite mega-constellation – TechCrunch

The proliferation of space debris in low Earth orbit is a problem that will not go away. Instead, it’s getting worse — a fact that made headlines last November, when a Russian anti-satellite direct ascent test produced enough new pieces of debris to force astronauts aboard the International Space Station to take immediate safety precautions in the event of a collision. (The US recently said they would no longer conduct such tests.)

It’s not just military action that could exacerbate the space debris problem: satellite megaconstellations like those planned by SpaceX, Amazon and Telesat could also generate more debris, if only for the reason that more objects in LEO more Opportunities for these objects mean collide.

Does this mean that mega constellations are incompatible with the LEO purge? Greg Wyler doesn’t think so. His new venture, E-Space, aims to reconcile the two by broadcasting a mesh communications satellite network made up of spacecraft that will also capture small debris before it deorbits at the end of its useful life.

The company remains silent on exactly how the satellites will capture and remove small debris from orbit, citing the proprietary nature of the technology. For now, the company is focused on launching three demonstration satellites as part of Rocket Lab’s next ride-along, which is currently scheduled for launch no sooner than April 28 from the launch company’s site on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula. While these demo satellites won’t test the mechanism for scavenging orbital debris, the company says the trio of spacecraft will validate other systems and technology.

Aside from the ability to grab space junk, the satellites will also have smaller cross-sections and will automatically deorbit in the event of a malfunction — two features that will also increase the sustainability of the constellation, the company says. The satellites will use a peer-to-peer communication model and zero trust topology to ensure secure communications for businesses and governments.

“If we are talking about building 100,000 or more satellites […] We’re monitoring carefully to make sure we’re clearly from a collision probability perspective, a hundred times less conspicuous and basically in the noise,” Wyler said. “Even though we have more satellites than anyone else, we have a negligible increase in the probability of collision.”

The exact number of satellites E-Space ultimately intends to send up is also unclear, but as the quote above shows, the company is raving about a huge number that far exceeds any existing or planned satellite constellation.

Wyler is no stranger to the space industry, having founded O3b Networks in 2007 and OneWeb in 2012. This latest company raised $50 million in a seed funding round led by Prime Movers Lab in February. The company has grown to over 50 employees and E-Space intends to start mass production of its satellites next year. Wyler said the company could launch demo satellites with orbital cleaning capabilities in 2023 or 2024.

He likened the mega constellation orbital debris puzzle to oysters in a river. “How does putting up more work [satellites]he said. “Well why are more oysters better in the river? Oysters clean the river. You have a lot of oysters, you have a really clean river.”

OneWeb founder Greg Wyler’s new startup wants to launch a “sustainable” satellite mega-constellation – TechCrunch Source link OneWeb founder Greg Wyler’s new startup wants to launch a “sustainable” satellite mega-constellation – TechCrunch

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