Just in case you didn’t have enough to worry about in 2020, Earth’s orbit has a countless number of human-made objects that could collide with one of over 8,000 satellites orbiting Earth.
Sure, space debris may seem like a far off thing to stress about, but for the team behind Kayhan Space, preventing such collisions is essential to keep our GPS, defense systems, telecommunications and even our food systems intact here on Earth. (The New Yorker has an in-depth look at the issue here).
“Every aspect of our daily life depends on space,” Kayhan Space’s Atlanta-based co-founder Araz Feyzi told Hypepotamus. “People think Earth’s orbit is an unlimited resource. They think it’s space and it’s unlimited. It’s not. It’s a finite resource, and the orbit around Earth is only a couple hundred of kilometers just above Earth.”
According to Feyzi, space is really a “congested and contested” place, as over 1,000 satellites have been launched into orbit in the last year alone from government agencies and independent companies like Space-X and Amazon Kuiper.
In any given week, one satellite operator could deal with up to 100 collision warnings, meaning these workers are spending most of their time dodging trash and not actually executing the mission at hand.
And tracking space junk is big business, as US Air Force’s Space Surveillance Network is currently tracking 20,000-30,000 objects in orbit — including broken satellites and orbital debris — traveling at close to 20,000 miles per hour. Any object over 10 centimeters in diameter is tracked as it could cause serious damage to a necessary satellite.
To combat the seemingly exponential number of satellites in orbit and the growing amount of space junk, Feyzi and his high school friend and Colorado-based CEO Siamak Hesar started Kayhan Space as a collision detection warning and avoidance guidance for satellite operators.
Using APIs and their connections with the Air Force’s existing network, satellite operators and customers are able to integrate notifications about what is going on in space, and the potential of high-risk crashes, right through Slack and other work messaging platforms.
“There continues to be exponential growth in space traffic. In fact, the upcoming launch of several mega-constellations is projected to increase the number of operational satellites by more than tenfold over the next decade,” said Hesar in a statement about the funding.
The team plans to use the capital to expand the team to 11 people.
Prior to starting Kayhan Space, Hesar worked at University of Colorado Boulder and NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, where he helped create the data assessment tracking system for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Feyzi worked in the Atlanta startup community as CEO and co-founder of Syfer.