“A better world is a dream that begins to come true” said Mahatma Gandhi. What if there is someone who works to makes better Universe too? There’s a company, a former start-up in northern Italy, which has developed a technology that help reducing the amount of space debris that is polluting the precious orbits around our planet.
It is called D-Orbit and his mission is to extend those principles of sustainability, already widespread on earth, also in the space and reduce “Space Debreis” or, more commonly, space junk. Luca Rossettini, founder and CEO of this company, wanted to be an astronaut, but when he saw his initial project fail he didn’t give up. On the contrary, he decided that it would arrive in orbit but he find a solution to the overcrowding of space debris. How? With an extremely innovative project, even praised by NASA. Rossettini, in 2011 in Milan, founded a start up able to work on space debris, removing them safely. The goal would be prevent satellites no longer active from wandering in space without a goal. “What we propose – told to an italian newspaper a few months ago Rossettini – is a long-term strategy of intelligent use of space environment: the idea is make sure that everything that is launched in orbit can then be removed without problems, an elementary principle that was lost with business needs“.
How does D-Orbit work? Through a procedure never seen and heard before. Technically, it would be a satellite decommissioning operation. Let’s see what this is. It’s an extremely safe and reliable maneuver that allows the active removal of deceased satellite, preventing it from becoming a further spatial debris. The maneuver is performed in a controlled manner, eliminating risk of impact against active satellites or falling on inhabited areas of the earth. Decommissioning technology respects recent international regulations on mitigation of space debris.
Who would have thought it? Even in the space there’s waste. According to European Space Agency, i’is 5.000 space debris larger than one meter, 20.000 larger than 10 cm, 750.000 wider by one centimeter and 150 million thicker than 1 mm. What it is? They are modules of old space stations, used rocket parts, out-of-use satellites and tools of astronauts escaped from their hands. The 95% of the objects currently in Earth orbit are made up of cosmic debris and the surprising thing is that they move 10 times the speed of a projectile and can take ages to precipitate into the atmosphere. And it’s not the frightening dimensions, but the energy generated by the high speed (between 20 and 30,000 km / h) to which they travel.
The matter of space debris is not a small thing and deserves to be taken seriously, even if the universe is so far from the mainland. D-Orbit researchers estimated that well over 35 million objects rotate uncontrollably in the orbits around our land, with a total mass that exceeds six thousand tons. The increase in concentration of Space Debris presents an exponential trend and this further aggravates the situation by facing difficult years for development of space activities. A saturation of the orbits could be dangerous if the number of spatial objects launched is higher than the number of those removed.
But that’s not all. The scenario for scientists and researchers is catastrophic and is very close to that assumed by the Nasa consultant Donald J. Kessler (Kessler syndrome) in 1991 according to which the volume of space debris found in low orbit around the earth would become so high that the objects in orbit would often come into collision, thus creating a chain reaction with an exponential increase in volume of debris and therefore the risk of further impacts. The direct consequence of this scenario is that the growing number of in-orbit waste would make space exploration and even the use of artificial satellites impossible for many generations.
D-Orbit is first aerospace start-up to develop a technology to help reducing the amount of space debris that is polluting the precious orbits around our planet: an intelligent and totally independent engine. That’s why it received a lot of awards for technological innovation. Last was obtained by Horizon 2020 – SME Instrument, a program to finance scientific research and innovation by the European Commission, with two million euros. With the 5 million euros already collected by investors, the company’s financial reserves have risen to seven million.
There’s also the Space Exploration Masters, launched by ESA, the European Space Agency for innovative applications, products and services in the field of space exploration and divided into two categories: Technology Transfer Success and New Business Innovation Category. And that’s not all. With FENIX project, D-Orbit won the prize in the category “The Best Business Innovation Idea related to Space Exploration“. In particular, FENIX won the “ESA Prize jointly with Space Applications Services” award which recognized the innovation of D-Orbit in the propulsive field.
Even members of D-Orbit team makes success. For example, this year the 30 Under 30 Europe classification arrived on Forbes, that is the ranking of 30 young Europeans under 30 who have distinguished themselves in their professional fields. And this year there’s also D-Orbit’s CTO Lorenzo Ferrario.
This story looks like a “brain drain“.
Yes, but in the space.