Make Space Tech Sustainable?
Space Technologies have come up quite a bit across this website. There are clear positive sustainability use cases for more orbit-based information and capabilities, however putting things in space is currently not a particularly environmentally friendly thing to do.
In one of my very first TechLeaderTalks interviews I spoke with an ambitious company that was using non-gaussian distribution to beam electricity safely to airborne vehicles with a goal of powering payloads into space using electricity from the ground.
I've also had the privilege with speaking with an exploration expert using satellites to prospect hidden fresh water from space, and an esteemed scientist using satellites to measure tiny changes in gravitational force to understand more about planetary movements.
NASA itself has been a pioneer of hydrogen and fuel cells, and continues to lead this along with other private space exploration companies such as Blue Origin's focus on sustainable hydrogen and Space X's focus on reusing rocket parts. (see here). Nonetheless, there is still a long way to go before space rockets do more good than harm.
In the meantime, there's another part to this equation - space debris and uncontrolled reentry as demonstrated by the failed Chinese CZ-5B rocket in July 2022.
Fire and Forget Missions
Putting things in space is pretty darn expensive. Getting things back down to Earth is even more tricky and adds significant risk and cost to all stages of the operation.
As such, many payloads are sent on a one-way journey into orbit or beyond.
This creates other sustainability related problems, some that Outpost Technologies are hoping to help solve.
Outpost Technologies today announced a Seed funding raise of $7.1 million, led by Moonshot Capital.
A More Sustainable Vision for Space
Outpost have a reusable vision for satellites. Their goal is to provide reusable satellite technology for companies looking to launch, and recover satellite payloads up to 125kg.
The key to this seems to lie in their inflatable heat shield and "advanced autonomous paraglider technology" that can provide precisions landing to aid speedy and secure recovery.
The satellite industry is worth $270Bn and with the private sector increasing re-use in the launch capability, there is much work to do to improve reuse and sustainability of the payloads themselves.