Apple co-founder announces private space company to clean up the space debris clogging the sky

Privateer will apparently monitor and clean up objects in space, but little else is known about the company yet

Adam Smith
Tuesday 14 September 2021 15:54 BST
Apple co-founder announces private space company to clean up the space debris clogging the sky
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Louise Thomas

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Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is starting a private space company called Privateer.

The company has been founded alongside Alex Fielding, who was a member of the first iMac team and founded “Wheels of Zeus” (‘WoZ’) in 2002 – a company that created wireless location trackers - but it is unclear exactly what the company will do.

Privateer’s website is currently in “stealth mode”, with more details to be revealed at the AMOS (Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance) 2021 conference, which starts today.

Mr Wozniak also shared a short video – a compilation of various space developments over time with inspirational voice over and music - that says that it’s “up to us to do what is right and what is good ... so the next generation can be better together”, alongside other generic platitudes.

Many private space companies, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, are attempting to push space travel for private citizens, such as SpaceX’s Inspiration4 voyage. Privateer, however, appears to be focused on space debris, which is becoming a major problem around the Earth.

In a press release for a 3D titanium alloy printer, spotted by Gizmodo, Privateer is described as a “satellite company focused on monitoring and cleaning up objects in space”, with Mr Wozniak quoted as saying that “the team at Privateer Space will be able to achieve the affordability and lightweighting capabilities needed to pave the way for our satellite design and launch.”

The number of active and defunct satellites around the Earth has increased from 3300 to over 7600 in the last decade, and that number could grow to as many as 100,000 satellites before 2030.

Such a substantial increase runs the risk predicted in 1978 by Nasa scientist Donald Kessler: that the domino effect of such an event could create an impenetrable layer of debris that would make terrestrial space launches impossible – essentially trapping us on Earth.

Earlier this month, a group of former astronauts, international space agencies, Nobel Laureates, and government officials across the world signed an open letter to stop anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) testing in order to try and hamper this eventuality.

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