Launchspace Technologies Corporation is a leader in resolving near-Earth congestion due to a rapidly growing satellite population plus trillions of pieces of orbiting debris. Much attention has been focused on the 30,000+ pieces of large orbital debris but Launchspace believes that it is the small orbital debris that is the real threat to the human and robotic spaceflight, the ISS and the upcoming forecasted $1 trillion global annual space economy (Department of Commerce). Precision data from space-based sensor satellites should in most cases allow human spaceflight, active satellites and the ISS to simply avoid large orbital debris with the removal of only a small amount of problematic large orbital debris, saving our government and commercial customers $ billions while providing improved spaceflight safety. Orbital debris remediation spacecraft will remove the small orbital debris that we believe is the real threat.
There are forecasted to be 100,000 new spacecraft being put on orbit in the next 10 years and an even larger number of CubeSats. Our current space traffic management system (STM) is inadequate to detect and track this amount of orbital debris and spacecraft. Current ground-based solutions can track resident space objects to as small as 2 cm and it’s not clear that this is with constant custody, so the actually size of resident space objects that can be detected and tracked with constant custody is likely to be larger than 2 cm. There is a data gap between approximately 1 mm and 2 cm, at least, where orbital debris is a growing threat that could lead to the Kessler Effect, where entire regions of near-Earth orbit are blocked for decades due to cascading collisions between small orbital debris objects.
Launchspace has developed patented solutions and special techniques for the control of orbital debris and the management of satellite traffic. We believe we have the only comprehensive solution to these challenges and have created an affordable and safe approach to assuring permanently sustainable space flight operations.
Our personnel were the first to do research on orbital debris removal, in 1970, under a NASA funded grant. Our business plan creates multiple streams of subscription-based revenues for the foreseeable future because the exponential increase in spacecraft being put on orbit means the orbital debris threat and space traffic management problems will need an ongoing permanent solution.
The Orbital Debris Problem
Space debris is the trash from human-made space systems. It all began with the birth of the Space Age in 1957, when the USSR launched Sputnik 1. Since that time the number of debris objects has accumulated to the point that a major threat exists for all near-Earth orbiting satellites, both robotic and crewed. There have been two satellite-on-satellite collisions between a defunct Russian Cosmos satellite and an Iridium satellite and the recent collision between a piece of orbital debris from a Russian Zenit-2 launch vehicle and the Yunhai 1-02 Chinese satellite. Yet the industry wants to spend $ billions on removing large orbital debris. Launchspace believes avoiding large orbital debris with data from sensor satellites, removing only the large orbital debris that is problematic and remediating small orbital debris is the most technically viable and cost-effective solution for managing the orbital debris and space traffic management problems. The sequence of growth of orbital debris is depicted below.
Debris objects range from microscopic to “school bus” size. The number of such objects totals an estimated 1,000 trillion. The last scientific assessment of the debris population was done over 20 years ago. The results from 1997 are illustrated in the figure below. Launchspace Technologies has divided the debris population into three categories. Category 1 represents the largest population and includes all objects smaller than 1 mm. This category included the largest number of debris pieces and represent the threat of “trash gridlock” to all space operations. Although a single debris piece in this category cannot significantly damage a satellite, continuous encounters will erode any spacecraft. Category 2 includes those debris pieces that cannot be tracked but can severely damage a satellite in a single collision. Data from 1997 estimated 10 million to 100 million debris objects in this category which we believe will grow to 1 trillion debris objects in the next 5 years. Finally, there is Category 3 that incorporates all objects that can be tracked, any one of which can cause catastrophic damage to any satellite it encounters. These resident space objects are active satellites, expired upper stages and large derelicts from satellite and launch vehicle breakups.
Launchspace Technologies’ Solution
Our patented approach to the orbital debris population control problem incorporates two orbiting constellations. One constellation is made up of sensor satellites that provide continuous precision tracking of all Category 3 objects. All collected data is processed and used to control a second constellation of orbital debris remediation spacecraft which passively collect Category 1 and 2 debris objects. Data on Category 3 objects could be used for customers to steer their operating satellites from possible conjunctions with large debris objects and our orbital debris remediation spacecraft are designed to mitigate the small orbital debris threat for customers that pay subscription fees for orbital debris removal. Our space-based sensor constellation is designed to provide enhanced space domain awareness for civil and national security space (NSS) customers and space traffic management functions.
The figure below depicts a debris impact pad (DIP) spacecraft that uses passive collection to remove orbital debris as it crosses the equator twice an orbit, approximately once every 50 minutes. The debris collector spacecraft maneuvers in an equatorial orbit, servicing our space-operator clients and protecting them from small-debris encounters. The debris impact pad is designed to mitigate creating new, smaller orbital debris when a debris object impacts our DIP. Additionally, current spacecraft shielding is designed to protect spacecraft and the ISS without any consideration for the “spall ejecta”, the backward splatter of debris that is created from an impact of a debris object on spacecraft shielding. Spacecraft and space infrastructure shielding represent another market opportunity for Launchspace’s orbital debris remediation technology.
Please watch our company video to learn more about Launchspace: https://youtu.be/u7dDX9bC0HE