Ron Lopez, president and managing director Astroscale US, joined host Daniel Litwin on this episode of the MarketScale Sciences Podcast to discuss the growing problem of space debris and what to do about it. The space economy is an expanding trillion-dollar industry, and this mission is to keep that economy healthy. There are many earth-bound services, from GPS to ATM, that rely on satellite technology, which resides in space.

“There’s any number of different services that are space-based that are providing value to our lives here on earth,” Lopez said.

The growth in this economy is due to several factors, including the reduction in the cost of satellite launches, and competing technologies.

With a booming space economy, the concern is how to navigate the rules of space and establish businesses and government protocols. Space flight safety and lower orbit space debris are a couple of critical areas for businesses and companies to focus on, Lopez said.

Defunct satellites and space debris at an altitude of 600 kilometers will come down naturally, but above that threshold, they will remain in orbit for hundreds or thousands of years.

“There are close to 1 million objects between 1cm and 10cms large, and an estimated 130 million objects between 1mm to 1cm, floating in space,” Lopez said. “Governments and businesses need to play a role in cleaning up this debris.”

Launching satellites into lower earth orbit is more cost-efficient than launching them into a higher orbit, which increases the number of satellites in lower orbit, and means the concerns of safety and debris are more significant.

“As a result,” Lopez said, “Astroscale anticipates larger satellite failure rates. Space is big, and accidents are still a low probability, but accidents do happen, and they are high impact events.”

In addition to their space debris-removal services, Astroscale’s developing technology to dock with existing satellites to refuel and service them, which can extend the lifespan of satellites, and reduce failure rates.

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