A highlight from When satellites collide

Future Tense
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A new space race is underway to provide global internet coverage via thousands of satellites but this unprecedented number of satellite launches is making space a lot. More dangerous hello. Welcome to future tense. I'm jennifer leak on today's program. The problem of space junk the growing risk of collisions and how our future usa space could be under threat. Explored your data coming through the blowback. Houston it's not good. Most of our systems are to debris chain reaction is out of control and rapidly expanding multiple-satellite down on fallen might multiple satellite this pretty terrifying scene from the film. Gravity details a nightmare scenario involving fast moving space jock from a scientific perspective. It's not entirely accurate. But there's no doubt. Space debris is a big and growing problem. It only takes one or a few collisions to drastically rewrite. How people operate in space. Caleb henry is from quilty analytics. They provide strategic advice to the satellite and space industry. There is concern. The risk is high and people are acting that way. I would say that the majority of people who are launching things into space are being very responsible but there is a dearth of regulation around how to handle space debris and with that gap. There's always the risk that something bad could happen and it would take hundreds or thousands of years to recover from it. This is a very real risk. The lower thought it could become untenable making further launches further out hugely difficult as well as the multiple pieces of debris to be mapped to track to avoid it in a launch. Does that matter to the well so much of what we know about. Climate change so much about what we know about the things that are getting on the earth actually monitored from space and even your banking transactions are going through satellite links satellite networks as well alongside your telecoms. Your gps in your car isn't coming magically. From summer it's coming from space so we have a need to protect our modern society by protecting space and achieving a balance of use in the cones. That's chris mclaughlin from company called one web. You'll hear more about what they're doing a bit later on up as operation as good luck god godspeed at the beginning of the space age in one thousand nine hundred fifty seven. Oh say space was just the ceo. Big you could pretty much do whatever you wanted up there with all my siri consequences. We now know that is not the case. The satellites that we put up there hang around for ages so there's about six thousand satellites in orbit around the earth at the moment but only about forty percent of those are operational. The rest are just dead satellites. That are taking up space and providing a hazard through the possibility of collisions. Dr stuart clark is an astronomy journalist and author of beneath the night sky. How stars have shaped the history of humankind. Space is everywhere in the earth's economy commercial companies play in increasing and important role in the space industry. It's facilitating some incredible projects and technology. It's making space a lot. More crowded jonathan mcdowell is an astrophysicist at the harvard smithsonian center for astrophysics commercial space started really being a thing in the nineties after the end of the cold war. But it's it's just recently things are taken off your back in the nineteen sixties apollo. That was joe the space age but at that time typically. They're only a couple of hundred even less than hundred satellites working at one time and now there are over three thousand of the numbers just shooting up. The big change is the new space race to improve global internet access via satellite mega constellations. Elon musk's styling. Company is leading a rush to grab space in low-earth orbit other plays include amazon. Telly sat and one whip. The satellite industry is going through a period of rapid transformation. Right now in the past you had satellites that were relatively static and worked for fifteen to twenty years usually and what's called geostationary earth orbit and that's a thirty six thousand kilometers above the earth's surface. So they would provide the same services over the same area and it was a stable cash making business. The recently there'd been a lot of advances in technology that have allowed engineers to shrink the size of the spacecraft and actually lower the orbit and then change the configuration of the spacecraft. So that they can point beams in different areas and suddenly you have a very dynamic system and from this has emerged. Several ideas of how to provide internet to the entire world through large systems of smaller. More powerful short-lived spacecraft's and that's revolutionizing the industry. We are t plus forty five seconds into liftoff and we have just had lived up of our falcon nine vehicle. Carrying our starlink payload styling so far launched around thirteen hundred satellites but in the coming years their plans for over forty thousand. That's fifteen times. The number of operational satellites in orbit today. This technology could really help a country like australia. Where remote and regional areas often struggle to get good coverage stalling infrastructure is actually already being rolled out in parts of victoria and new south wales. The thing is these mega constellations. A dramatic change in the way space is being used and they're increasing the risk of collisions

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