Apple co-founder launches hunt for space junk

The founder of Apple is also launching into aerospace, but he does not intend to build rockets; on the other hand, he intends to track their corpses.

Privateer, the company co-founded by Steve Wozniak, has officially unveiled its very first creation after months of stealth operations; It’s a space tracking app that allows anyone to locate orbiting satellites, view them, and even track space junk.

Privateer is not intended to compete with manufacturers such as SpaceX, Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic. Its core business is above all data; its main objective is to set up an infrastructure allowing the tracking of “hundreds of millions” of objects orbiting our planet, especially waste.

A free access map (for now)

Wayfarer represents the first concrete emanation of this system which currently follows more than 27,000 tracked objects. Concretely, it takes the form of a three-dimensional map which is (for now) freely available on the Privateer website (at this address).

You can find heaps of objects classified by category. In particular, there are the main satellites in activity, but also inactive satellites, debris, abandoned rocket bodies, but also a large quantity of objects whose nature remains to be defined. Just click on one of them to access a whole bunch of orbital parameters such as its speed relative to the Earth, its semi-major axis, or the time it takes the object to perform a complete rotation around the planet.

A fundamental line of work for tomorrow’s aerospace

It is an interesting hobby for enthusiasts. But it is above all the kind of tool that will soon be essential for agencies and governments to properly manage the threat that space waste represents for the aerospace industry of the future. Indeed, all of these objects pose major threats to any spacecraft or device in orbit.

We are at a clear tipping point, on the cusp of exponential growth in commercial space”, explains the co-founder of Apple to CNN. “Having a better global understanding of objects already in orbit is critical for the sustainability of this new space economy.”, he insists.

This is a problem of which the main players in the sector are already fully aware; there are already several programs whose objective is to track these objects. For a long time, it was the US government that took on this task on its own through NASA. There are also private services that have settled in this niche, such as the French startup Share My Space.

Privateer wants to go one step further, and track objects that the rest of the industry misses out on for various technical reasons. It thus hopes to offer the most extensive database possible in order to avoid a catastrophic scenario of the Kessler syndrome type.

It will be interesting to see to whom, and especially how, Privateer will succeed in selling its services. If successful in its debut, it could well afford the lion’s share of a market that could become very profitable.

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