Overcrowding in space needs to be kept under check says Astra CEO

  • Astra CEO Chris Kemp spoke about the boom in the space sector.
  • Kemp feels that there is an unregulated increase in satellites being sent into space.
  • Space pollution is on the rise and can cause serious problems.

The new big bang

Our universe was born approximately 13.8 billion years ago through an event known as the Big Bang. The big bang is the cosmological explanation of how our observable universe came into existence.

But in the 21st century, the world is witnessing a new “big bang” and this time around it is synonymous with the boom in the space sector.

The space sector was initially a sparsely populated domain, primarily dominated by glorious government organizations such as NASA and the likes. But now, with the advancements in research and financial support, the world is paving the way for multiple private players in space.

Privatisation of space

In the very recent past, global media was plagued with the overwhelming coverage of billionaires, the likes of Amazon Ex-CEO Jeff Bezos, and British business magnate Sir Richard Branson embarking on novel space flights.

The history goes such that both Bezos and Branson undertook their respective journeys on very proximous dates, thus triggering the prolific headline, “billionaires space race”.

Bezos’ company Blue Origin and Bransons’ Virgin Galactic are the first of their kind private space organizations to not only manufacture their rockets for space travel but also open doors to commercial space flights.

Not lagging behind its counterparts, SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space exploration and telecommunications company, went down in history with the Inspiration4 mission. This mission, a first of its kind, allowed four untrained civilians to traverse space. The members aboard the Dragon Resilience Capsule orbited Earth for three days before splashing down into the Pacific.

Space and its endless possibilities

Astra CEO Chris Kemp recently spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on the expansion of the space sector. He believes advancements made in space are as revolutionary as the birth of the internet in the 60s. And he hopes it will be as ubiquitous in our lives as it is.

Astra is an American launch vehicle company started by Kemp in 2016 and was formerly known as Stealth Space Company. According to Kemp it primarily functions as a space tech company rather than a space tourism one. They are focused on space services that can be consumed by customers on Earth.

Kemp believes that space can be an avenue for several practical uses for space technology, like satellites, including tracking anything from water levels and energy to weather on Earth. Astra is set to create a mark in the satellite launch market very soon having successfully deployed its first group of satellites in March.

Kemp was also critical of the unregulated boom in the sector allowing a far greater concern to hover over our heads. That is the advent of the term “space junk” and consequently its aftermath.

The rise of space pollution and its hazards

It’s no secret that space has become increasingly crowded. According to statistics given by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), there are around 4,852 active satellites currently in orbit and more than 3,000 inactive orbiters above our heads.

In addition to defunct pieces of spacecraft, including discarded rocket stages, fragmented hardware, and even paint flecks, the term “space junk” is now more relevant than ever.

And yet we carry on as if nothing is wrong. The number of missions on the waitlist for launch keeps on climbing with Musk tweeting about his plan to launch 60 rockets in 2022, Blue Origin planning its fifth commercial flight, and Virgin Galactic planning to ramp up tourist flights to send customers to space three times per month with its reusable rocket.

Space pollution is indeed a serious concern and can pose a serious threat to both space and Earth residents. On Earth, we are dependent on space for defense, satellite broadband internet, navigation, weather, climate, and environmental monitoring.

The aftereffect of space junk also affects the health of humans. Studies have found that increased launch of rockets from commercial space companies such as Blue Origin and SpaceX could have a significant cumulative effect on the climate.

The major reason behind this detrimental effect is the number of carbon gases and nitrogen oxides that would be produced with every such launch. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) – The number of nitrogen oxides which is released by an ascending rocket into two cubic kilometers of atmospheric air was found to be very hazardous to human health.

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