I wrote a short piece for some investment mavens about the amount of private investment piling up in near earth orbit, and was surprised to discover a couple of local companies already had sats up there. At twenty-eight thousand kilometres per hour, even a tiny paint fleck can kill you. When NASA was launching regular space shuttle missions, hyper-velocity paint flecks cracked the vehicle’s windows in high orbit on multiple occasions. Space, it turns out, is crowded. A defunct Russian spacecraft smashed into an Operation Iridium satellite in 2009, destroying it utterly and adding another couple of thousand pieces of space junk to the mess whizzing around the planet. Space agencies track these hazards as best they can, but eventually somebody will have to clean up — and, given how dependent our civilisation has become on space-based technology, they can probably name their price.
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