Rest assured, this is not an attempt to greenwash Space travel. There is no doubt of the mixed feelings across industries when it comes to humans and our technologies venturing to outer Space…
Environmentalists envision fiery rockets, emitting harmful, gaseous particles as they thunder into the atmosphere. On the other hand, Space enthusiasts view it as a collective effort to discover the mysteries of our universe, bringing us closer to becoming a multiplanetary space faring species. I find myself in neither camp. It is worthwhile to hold a balanced approach between these views and treat Space as an extension of our natural planet. It is an environment too valuable to exploit, but also too valuable to be left completely deserted.
Outer Space may not be not leafy or full of life (yet). Although, it is a natural ecosystem just as rainforests and oceans are. These are environments we gain valuable resources from, but many remain unprotected. Now, the challenge lies in avoiding these mistakes when Space is selected as a domain in which we do business; develop technology; and communicate.
Currently, we can’t look to a single entity for ethical ownership over the increasingly populated orbits beyond our atmosphere. However we do have an industry with the aptitude and potential to independently regulate how we use this environment. Taking a snapshot of the Space industry today: it is clear to see 3 major applications stand out in ensuring this potential is achieved.
- Deriving data from Space to provide insights on climate change
- Active monitoring of the infrastructure and debris footprint in orbital regions and Deep Space environments
- Alternative and sustainable solutions for launch
The Space industry has been a place of phenomenal growth over the past few years. You will be pleased to learn there are hundreds, if not thousands, of companies working on each of the 3 areas outlined above. From university spin outs to large scale corporates, and the start-ups in between.
I’ll be highlighting some of the ventures emerging from thin air (literally) to tackle these 3 key areas. Starting with 5 Space based technologies with capabilities to help our climate change efforts…
SatelliteVu | Scale-up | UK
Aptly described as the “World’s Thermometer”, Satellite Vu will provide the highest resolution thermal data from Space. Through their constellation of satellites, the technology is capable of measuring the thermal emissions of any structure on the planet at multiple times day and night. Using infrared technology to monitor the Earth will provide valuable insights on areas like thermal water pollution and energy efficiency of buildings. All of this is key data to help reduce our carbon footprint. SatelliteVu have raised over $25M and plan to launch 7 satellites within the next year.
Biomass Satellite, ESA, Airbus Defence & Space | ESA Mission | Europe
Around 30% of Earth’s land surface is covered by forest. Absorbing around 8 Gigatonnes a year of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, forests play a crucial role in the carbon cycle and climate system. ESA's Biomass mission will measure forest biomass, leading to a better understanding of the state of Earth’s forests and our carbon cycle. The satellite will explore Earth's surface at the P-band wavelength, the first time this technique is used from orbit. This will allow it to provide accurate maps of different types of biomass, currently not obtainable by ground measurement techniques
The satellite is currently being built by Airbus Defence & Space, it was great to see it at their site in the UK earlier this year. This image illustrates how “Biomass will deploy a massive 12-m diameter reflector to harness long-wavelength ‘P-band’ radar signals, piercing through forest canopies in order to perform a five-year census of all the trees on Earth.”
Airmo | Start up | Europe
Airmo is an early stage start up developing a satellite constellation to provide vital Earth Observation data on greenhouse gas emissions. Obtaining this data through existing methods cannot be done on scale and is of limited quality and quantity. Airmo’s novel LIDAR technology is able to offer accurate and non bias data on carbon dioxide and methane concentrations. Having a continuous, global & near real time data stream is key in helping companies across agriculture, energy and industrial manufacturing achieve net zero.
OirthirSAT | LaunchUK Nanosat Design Proposal | University of Glasgow
OirthirSAT is a winning nanosat design proposed by a young team of engineers from the University of Glasgow. OirthirSAT plan to make use of onboard processing capabilities to automatically extract coastal boundaries such as shorelines and coastal vegetation edges for the entirety of the UK. When combined into a timeseries of lines, this boundary data provides a standardised measure of coastal change. This gives coastal managers and decision-makers the most up-to-date information on how coasts are being impacted by climate change, and who is most adversely affected by these changes.
The design also incorporates features to minimise their debris footprint in the Space environment. The use of a drag augmentation device will allow the platform to deorbit once it has stopped gathering useful coastal data. The team were awarded £600k funding as winners of the LaunchUK competition by UK Space Agency! Now, they are proceeding to work with mentors to finalise designs as they become launch ready. As an engineering grad from University of Glasgow myself, I’m excited to follow the teams progress as they establish their winning design.
CarbonSpaceTech | Start up | Europe
CarbonSpaceTech have developed a SaaS platform to give insights into carbon footprint from land-use, powered by satellite data. Existing tracking of the land based carbon footprint for businesses, farms, Smart Cities and more, is manual, slow and expensive. This might mislead climate action and slow down our transition towards net-zero. The CarbonSpace AI platform leverages satellite, ground sensor and inventory data to provide detailed and regular carbon analytics. By providing global emissions data through unique insights and high resolution carbon maps, the tech can improve emissions monitoring in a range of industries. It is needed in many businesses from corporate ESG monitoring, insurance products to agriculture and food production.
If you are working on interesting Space technology, or know of any impressive tech in the works get in touch 🚀