Erik T. Long, Founder and CEO
In the fifty years since the dawn of ‘the space age,’ governments across the globe have transformed their space programs to new heights, thanks to the surge in tech-driven innovation and advancements. This new frontier to explore came with its own set of challenges as the meteoric rise of the space industry has given rise to an unprecedented amount of debris of varying sizes in low earth orbit (LEO).
Today, there are roughly 23,000 objects larger than 10 cm in the space around Earth, which in case of a collision event, may cause irreversible damage to expensive assets and endanger human life. And as the space industry continues to boom with the addition of billionaires racing to bring safe and accessible space travel to the everyday consumer, the volume of debris surrounding Earth is perfectly poised to increase exponentially.
As an antidote to this issue, California-based Orbotic Systems offers its innovative space debris remediation solution comprising a swarm of orbiting CubeSats (a miniaturized cubic satellite) capable of alerting spacecraft of incoming space debris.
In pursuit of realizing this vision, the company collaborated with the University of Florida to license their D-3 technology (Drag De-orbit Device), which was developed at the academic institution in conjunction with NASA. “The D-3 CubeSats that power our space debris remediation can not only be leveraged to identify space debris but also be utilized as a tool to orbit and de-orbit smaller spacecraft at a fraction of the cost,” says Erik T. Long, founder and president at Orbotic Systems.
Apart from space debris management, the company’s D-3 technology also helps space agencies and private space programs lower the cost of small satellite launching by offering an alternative propulsion approach that does not utilize expensive rocket fuel and thruster technology. Furthermore, owing to its high maneuverability, Orbotic Systems’ solution can be used as a collision-avoidance system for orbiting satellites, thereby minimizing the risk of generating new debris. The company’s D-3 technology also has highly accurate targeting, which can be leveraged to de-orbit satellites over unpopulated earth points. As a result, satellite developers can utilize a wide range of materials to design their end-product as the D-3 eliminates the risk of de-orbiting it in an undesired location where it can cause damage to life and property.
Further discussing the core competencies of his product, Long elaborates, “Unlike most space debris mitigation solutions, our product offers high reliability, better control, lower power consumption, and a significantly lower price point.” Concurrently, Orbotic Systems is partnering with space agencies and satellite developers across the globe to incorporate AI and ML models into its existing navigation capabilities as well as to prove the usage of its D-3 swarm on larger satellites. Furthermore, the company is currently developing a new feature for its solution that will act as an affordable backup control system in cases of emergency.
Looking ahead, the company aims to demonstrate the capabilities of its D-3 device at space tech expos and start accepting orders for the same in Q4 2021. At the same time, the company is also developing its Orbot Squad—an orbiting spacecraft that monitors and detects space debris that can potentially threaten life and assets. With this development, Orbotic Systems plans to build a small swam of CubeSats that can collect data on space debris and space weather, which can be offered to interested parties. Once the company creates this library of space data, it will enable the creation of its new security detail capability that will protect spacecraft and satellites from debris and other undesirable factors. To conclude, Long reiterates the ethos of his company, “We will continue expanding the featureset of our D-3 swarm to unlock never-before-seen applications that can significantly lower costs and risks while helping us grow our footprint to newer markets.