New satellites can boost safe communication. While clearing out space junk?
A satellite startup called E-Space is developing a satellite mesh network in low Earth orbit to boost space communications and also help clean up space debris, a report from Forbes reveals.
The company announced Monday, March 21, that it aims to launch its first three test satellites later this year. If all goes to plan, one more test will follow, after which the firm aims to move towards commercial deployment of its technology.
E-Space faces strong competition
In 2007, E-Space CEO Greg Wyler founded O3B Networks, which currently operates a constellation of 20 satellites and was acquired by Luxembourg-based telecommunications company SES in 2016. In 2012, Wyler founded OneWeb, the SpaceX Starlink competitor, which SpaceX will launch to space after Russia took it off the launchpad following global U.S.-led sanctions on its aerospace industry.
E-Space isn't the only company looking to provide space-based communications. Its rival SpaceX has been praised for its use of its Starlink internet satellite network to help people remain connected in war-torn Ukraine. The same Starlink network will soon be tested for space communication by the all-civilian Polaris Dawn mission, scheduled for launch later this year. Another company, Aquarian Space, aims to launch its first test network for high-speed internet on the Moon by 2024.
Custom peer-to-peer networks in space
What sets E-Space apart from its competitors is its mission to "democratize space" via a peer-to-peer communications setup with no gateways. This means customers will be able to develop their own custom networks based on "zero trust" security topology. "Not only does that reduce the cost," Wyler told Forbes. "It also increases the security because it's point to point."
The company has contracted Rocket Lab to take its satellites up into orbit in the second quarter of 2022 on one of its Electron rockets. In a statement on E-Space's website, Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck said "E-Space is pursuing a transformational idea to open up space for all, while putting sustainability first. Rocket Lab shares this mission to help society and businesses responsibly embrace space-based applications through innovation."
The sustainability part comes from the fact that E-Space's satellites are also designed to capture a specific amount of space debris while in orbit. When they have captured that specific amount, they are programmed to de-orbit and burn up on re-entry into the atmosphere.
Once E-Space's test satellites are in orbit later this year, the company will test their communications performance as well as their maneuverability in space. Software updates will allow the control team to optimize performance during the tests.
If E-Space's tests are successful, the company could eventually launch satellites that help to fix the ever-increasing issue of space debris rather than add to the problem.