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We are the ecological operators of outer space (but we’re economical)

The satellite market is worth 150 billion dollars with only 60 operators in the world. In perspective, there are plans to launch 1,200 new satellites in the next eight years

We are the ecological operators of outer space (but we’re economical)

This is Italy Team

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If we had the possibility to view this Earth from outer space, we would see a planet surrounded by 300 million small objects, including 6,000 satellites that whiz by at 35,000 km per hour. Only 800 of them are still working, however. The others are just wandering about, uncontrolled, at constant risk of collision, which would have the unpleasant consequences of a shower of residues raining down on us.

What to us looks like an ordinary starry sky has become, over the years, an immense hi tech dump that really needs to be cleaned up urgently. Four young Italian engineers are doing just that: Luca Rossettini, Renato Panesi, Thomas Panozzo and Giuseppe Tussiwand founded D-Orbit last March, a start up that has been a guest, since June 2011 of the University of Florence's Incubator, and they expect to grow fast.

The satellite market is worth 150 billion dollars with only 60 operators in the world. In perspective, there are plans to launch 1,200 new satellites in the next eight years, which will increase the industry's business by 14% every year (+33% in 2011).

So, in addition to producers, there is a need for people to take care of cleaning up the orbits. «The risk of collision has doubled in the last three years. Preventing these accidents costs up to 100 million dollars per satellite: we offer a solution that costs a lot less, from 1 to 3 million euros» says Rossettini, managing director of D-Orbit. «What we have is an intelligent engine that is installed on the satellite before it goes into orbit. It is activated from Earth: if the satellite travels near the planet, when it is taken out of use this engine nudges it toward the surface, guiding it into an ellipse that will allow it to fall safely into the Pacific, where we want it. The ones farther out, however, are pushed toward a cemetery orbit», he explains.

The first model, assembled in the workshop in Sesto Fiorentino, will be ready in February and will be tested in a laboratory in Germany. The business plan expects the first contract to be stipulated at the end of 2012

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