Current situation and challenges
The possibilities to improve life on earth using space technology are abundant: Satellites can be used to enable real-time data transfer everywhere and thus improve communications in isolated or rural areas and with it access to knowledge and healthcare services.
To pave the way for further research and exploration into space, we need to find ways to make space access not only reliable and safe but also economical.
Space debris, for example old satellites or remnants of past collisions, is a major problem. There are 34.000 objects larger than 10cm, and almost 129 million objects smaller than 10 cm in orbis. Note that at high speed, a tiny object is enough to cause severe damage in a collision, putting satellites and rockets at risk.
Freigeist’s view on technologies
We already went to the moon, but if we want to go higher and further, we need better propulsion systems. One approach to space exploration and space travel would be to use space resources like water which can be converted to liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, a powerful chemical rocket propellant. Micro- and nano satellites help to gain a higher cost efficiency. The high costs for satellite launches can be reduced with new concepts focused on reusability and/or launching more material into space at once like SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy or NASA’s Space Launch System.
Promising starting points for space debris mitigation are end-of-life disposal and passivation. The ESA is working on programs for active debris removal, which are also necessary.
Satellite imagery, i.e. observational data from satellites can be used to protect the environment and manage resources, for example through detailed weather forecast and smart farming or to optimize public space ratios and to create a better living environment in cities. Observations of mobility patterns will push developments of autonomous vehicles forward. And the possibility of better tracking will make the logistics sector more sustainable and efficient.
Already today, space spin-off technologies are improving our lives on earth. And if we dream into the future, space based solar power could provide a new source of clean energy, while asteroid mining could open new sources of raw materials.
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