A Dutch de-orbiting satellite named ‘Hiber Four’ is expected to offer some solution to the issue of outer space getting overcrowded due to the increasing number of satellites.
As of January 2021, there are more than 3,000 satellites orbiting Earth, as per a space database maintained by experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a non-profit science advocacy organization based in Massachusetts, United States.
A total of 3,372 satellites are operational in outer space; of these, 1,897 are American, 176 Russian, and 412 Chinese satellites, while 887 belong to the rest of the world.
Among these, 2,612 are Low Earth orbit satellites (LEO), 139 are Medium Earth orbit satellites (MEO), and 562 Geostationary meteorological satellites.
The 1897 American satellites include 34 in the civil sector, 1,486 commercial ones, 165 government-owned ones, and 212 for military use.
The problem of overcrowding in outer space could get further complicated as Elon Musk’s SpaceX-Starlink aims to launch about 12000 internet satellites.
According to reports, the Federal Communications Commission had in November 2018 approved SpaceX to launch 11,943 satellites, with the company aiming to deploy 4,425 satellites in orbit by 2024.
Amid all this, a Dutch internet-of-things (IoT) company called Hiber has sent a satellite called Hiber Four into space that is designed to de-orbit itself once its lifespan is exhausted.
The second-generation satellite has been designed and built by in-house engineers at the company’s Amsterdam office.
The presence of an on-board propulsion system on the satellite enables the ground engineers to adjust the satellite’s orbit. This helps in safeguarding it against collisions and, enabling de-orbit at the end-of-life, making Hiber one of the most responsible CubeSat constellation operators in the world.
Importantly, Hiber Four, along with its sister satellite name Hiber Three (set to launch next month), is 50 percent of the volume of their previous satellite generation.
As per a Hiber press release, the reduced mass helps in cutting the costs of the launch of the satellites by up to 50 percent.
According to Maarten Engelen, Co-Founder, and MD Technology of Hiber, this is only the beginning of what is to come.
“This is just the start of what’s coming. We moved all of our integration and operations for satellites and end-to-end solutions in-house last year, which gives us greater control over cost, functionality, and speed of improvement.
“By controlling the full solution, we can innovate faster and respond quickly to customer needs,” said Engelen.
According to the reports, SpaceX is currently launching more satellites into space than any other organization, with the California-headquartered space firm launching around 60 satellites in the past few days.
However, according to space and technology expert, Brad Bergan, the introduction of Hiber’s second-gen satellite series will ultimately aid in reducing the crowded situation in low-Earth orbit, while also avoiding potential collisions with other satellites or space junk.