One of the first things that comes to mind about space is its vast expanse — a concept of enormity that’s almost impossible to imagine. But space can also be a limited entity when considering the relatively small bit of it surrounding Earth.
Even as the new James Webb Space Telescope has begun delivering extraordinary images from the farthest reaches of the universe, here on Earth we’re confronting the growing reality that our local space environment is being threatened by factors that ominously echo the human record of environmental degradation on Earth.
Consider some facts:
After more than 65 years of launching objects into space, Earth is surrounded by approximately 9,000 metric tons of debris. That includes large objects like defunct satellites and spacecraft to spent rocket stages all the way down to hundreds of thousands of objects smaller than 10 cm. Even at that size, the great speed at which they travel makes them deadly to anything in their path.
The pace at which we are adding to this is increasing exponentially as large satellite constellations with risky designs in low-Earth orbit are being launched amidst light regulation.
Similar to how we created a world awash in single-use plastics without much thought or regulation as to its impact on the environment, we’re only now starting to reckon with the ramifications of all this orbital debris.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s still time to not repeat the past in space. Today, we may wonder how we let certain extractive industries in the past pollute our air, land and waterways, but future generations may also puzzle over how we let space get out of hand — if we don’t act now.
Here’s a simple truth: All of us in the space industry need to immediately address how we can be part of the solution and not add to the problem.
At E-Space, we’re creating a different type of satellite network that’s designed at its core to be more friendly to our local space environment. Our constellation will also contain many thousands of satellites, but we’re building them in such a way as to significantly limit their impact in a number of innovative and intriguing ways:
- Small cross-section: We create satellites whose profile is such that only a small section is exposed to the orbital path where debris may fly.
- Fail safe: If one of our satellites fails, it will automatically de-orbit itself rather than hang around as space junk until its orbit degrades naturally.
- 100% demise: At its end-of-life, E-Space satellites are designed to burn up completely upon re-entry with no components falling to Earth.
- Low mass: Compared to some of the smallest satellites in low-Earth orbit, E-Space satellites are even smaller. This helps them avoid collision and have less of an impact if they do burn up in the atmosphere.
- No component release: With their revolutionary simple design, our satellites have fewer parts. That makes them much less likely to release components, in the unlikely event of collision, and create more orbital debris.
- Entrain and de-orbit: In the event of collision, E-Space satellites are ultimately being designed to capture the other object and then sacrificially de-orbit our satellite. The way we see it, if one of our satellites is going down, it’s best to take out some other debris in the process and leave space cleaner than when we came in.
As impressive as these attributes are, the fact remains that overall policing of space is best left to collective agreements from the countries of the world. We’re seeing something akin to a land rush today, where those first to space can pollute and crowd out those looking to follow. Fair and equitable regulation of space from governing bodies is the only way to ensure tomorrow’s space environment doesn’t mirror the worst excesses here on Earth. It will also enable any and all nations that might want to participate in this amazing era of space communications and exploration to do so — responsibly.
Bridging Earth and Space
When we think of sustainability and space, there’s more to it than the issues noted above. Sustainability also means deploying the power of space-based communications to effect real change on Earth. So, what does that mean?
Today, most satellite connectivity is prohibitively expensive for all but people and businesses in wealthier parts of the world. Vast areas of the planet are unserved by anything resembling affordable, reliable communications that can be life changing. At the same time, satellites are the great equalizer with their ability to reach most of the planet — especially places where traditional terrestrial providers can’t or won’t go.
We believe affordability and accessibility is a critical ingredient to help drive sovereign opportunities for countries and communities across the world. The E-Space network is designed to bring communications equality by providing today’s cutting-edge tools to people and businesses just about anywhere.
That means farmers in the United States, Brazil and even Botswana could each have the ability to maximize crop yield and improve energy efficiency with smart devices connected via satellite. A wide array of devices continually connected can help monitor everything from fisheries and forests to game preserves and wind turbines — all at a fraction of the cost of traditional communications services.
So, while E-Space is set to lead the way in sustainable space, we’re also keenly aware of how these technologies can improve life here on Earth. Keeping that bridge between Earth and space is always at the forefront of what we do, and we encourage the rest of the industry to join us as we turn the page on the misuse of natural resources and make access to space available to all.