• Space companies, from Elon Musk’s SpaceX to start-up OneWeb, are racing to launch satellites into space with the aim of creating global internet coverage on Earth.
  • But there’s one big problem, experts say — the creation of so-called “space junk.”
  • Debris in space can be a threat to future manned missions to space as well as satellites currently in orbit.

Space companies, from Elon Musk’s SpaceX to start-up OneWeb, are racing to launch satellites into space with the aim of creating global internet coverage on Earth. But there’s one big problem, experts say — the creation and threat from so-called “space junk.”


This debris floating in space could interfere with future space missions and satellite launches — and even send objects hurtling back to Earth.

The latest episode of CNBC’s “Beyond the Valley” podcast looks at London-based start-up OneWeb’s mission to launch satellites into space and the issues surrounding space junk and regulation.

What is space junk?

There have been over 5,000 launches into space since the late 1950s, according to the European Space Agency (ESA) with nearly 9,000 satellites put up there. About 5,000 are still in space but under 2,000 are actually functioning.

These human-made objects, which can be an entire satellite or even bits of rockets, are dubbed as space junk.

The ESA said there are 22,300 pieces of debris that are traceable but there could be hundreds of thousands more than can’t be tracked.

Space junk has gotten worse for a number of reasons. When rockets are launched, certain “stages” of rockets detach from the main body of the vessel. These explode, splintering into lots of pieces. That’s one cause of the growing amount of junk.

One particular major event happened in 2009, when two satellites collided with each other, resulting in 2,300 trackable fragments being generated, the ESA said.

The other big problem is the countries launching anti-satellite missiles. For example, in 2007, China blew up one of its own missiles, increasing the amount of trackable debris size by 25% in that one incident. And in 2009, India carried out a similar missile launch on one of its own satellites.

As space junk increases, there could be a snowball effect. If more debris is traveling at thousands of miles per hour in space and it hits another object, that can result in more splintering and more junk.

“Imagine how dangerous sailing the high seas would be if all the ships ever lost in history were still drifting on top of the water,” ESA Director General Jan Worner said in a statement last year.

What’s the issue?

The biggest concern right now is the plans for thousands of satellites from various companies being launched into space.


SpaceX and OneWeb are among the companies in this race. The aim is to create so-called mega-constellations that are able to provide internet access to anywhere in the world, even the remotest parts of Earth. Both SpaceX and OneWeb have already begun launching satellites.

There are a number of risks associated with space junk. The first is that this debris could hit spacecraft carrying humans or even the International Space Station.

Another risk is satellites hitting each other. And finally, the ESA warns that large space debris that “reenter into the atmosphere in an uncontrolled way can reach the ground and create a risk to the population on the ground.”

“The space environment is a very delicate one,” Christopher Newman, professor of space law and policy at Northumbria University in the U.K., told CNBC’s “Beyond the Valley” podcast.

“And for many, many years there was the prevalence of what we call ‘big sky theory’ — space is big, we don’t need to worry about it. But actually the amount of operational space we are using is really quite small and especially now, with the constellations looking to occupy large areas of low Earth orbit, it’s becoming even more crowded.”

What is being done?

Projects have been authorized with the aim of removing the floating space rubbish.

Last year, ESA commissioned a consortium led by Swiss start-up Clear Space, to lead a mission to remove a specific item of debris from space.

A video on ClearSpace’s website shows how its technology would work. A spacecraft would be sent up toward the junk and an arm would extend out to grab the item. This mission is slated for 2025.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has commissioned another start-up Astroscale to remove space debris, and the mission is slated to begin in 2022.

“Active debris removal is going to become an area where I think we’re going to have to pay increased attention to,” Newman said.

Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb, explained how he’s trying to make his company’s launches sustainable.

“We are making sure that what we are putting up in space … what really matters is you take this stuff down, when we take it down our satellites will disintegrate … upon re-entry (into Earth),” Steckel said during an interview for CNBC’s “Beyond the Valley” podcast.

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment when contacted by CNBC.


[Source: This article was published in cnbc.com By ARJUNKHARPAL - Uploaded by the Association Member: Alex Gray]

Categorized in Science & Tech

[This article is originally published in popsci.com written by David Nield - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Issac Avila]


Your phone is logging your activity.

Every time you grab your phone to participate in a group chat, watch a YouTube video, or search the internet, you leave a digital trail of activity. This footprint can compromise your privacy the next time a friend borrows your device. It also puts your personal information at risk should your phone fall into really unscrupulous hands.


In this guide, we'll explain how you can prevent your device from logging and storing data where other people can easily stumble across it. We will focus on cleaning up your phone's local storage, as opposed to limiting the information that apps send to the cloud.

Go incognito

The web browser on your phone, like the one on your computer, offers a data-limiting incognito or private mode. When you open a session in this mode, the app will forget the pages you visit and the keywords you search as soon as you close the window.

However, private browsing doesn't make you invisible. For instance, if you log into Facebook's web portal in incognito mode, the social network will record your activity. Your internet service provider (ISP), will also see your browsing, and it may log your online behavior as well. To hide your browsing from your ISP, you'll need to rely on a Virtual Private Network (VPN) (more on that in this roundup of security gadgets and apps). But if you simply aim to clean up the record left on your phone's local storage, then this mode tidies up after itself very effectively.

The process for using this mode will depend on the browser app you prefer. For example, to launch incognito mode with Chrome, tap the Menu button (three dots) on the top right of the page and choose New incognito tab. If you forget to browse incognito, you can still clear your saved data. Just hit Menu > Settings > Privacy > Clear browsing data.


For iPhone users who rely on Safari, tap the Show pages icon (two squares) on the bottom right of the screen and choose Private. Now, when you tap the Plus button to open a new window, it will be an incognito one. To erase data collected outside of private mode, open the Settings app and select Safari > Clear History and Website Data.

Erase messages

Unless you use a chat app with self-destructing messages, it will keep records of your conversations. Of course, most people like to check back on their old communications, but you don't need to preserve every moment of a years-long thread. You can delete these old conversations manually, or try a less time-consuming option: Automatically erase chat history after a set period of time has elapsed.

On iOS, open the Settings app, go to Messages > Keep Messages, and set messages to automatically disappear after 30 days. Within the app itself, you can manually erase conversations from the front screen: Swipe left on the thread and then tap the Delete button.

Unfortunately, not all chat apps offer this auto-expunge function. To leave no trace of conversations on your phone, you may have to turn to manual deletion. This may be time-consuming, but it isn't difficult. For example, in Android's default SMS app, Messages, you delete a conversation by long-pressing on it and then tapping the Trash icon on the top right of the screen.

Some apps make it easier to purge your entire history all at once. In the case of WhatsApp, open the app and head to Settings > Chats > Chat history > Delete all chats. Then make a note to regularly check back and re-erase your latest messages.

Another solution is to only send the aforementioned self-destructing messages. Apps with this option include Telegram MessengerFacebook Messenger, and Snapchat. For more information, check out our guide to self-destructing message apps.

Limit app logging

Each of the apps on your phone will take a slightly different approach to log your activities. Some of them let you avoid their gaze by using incognito mode, while others will stop tracking you if you ask.

For example, the Android version of YouTube (this is not yet available in the iOS version) just added an incognito mode, which doesn't track the videos you watch. To activate this mode, open the app, tap your avatar on the top right of the screen, and pick Turn on Incognito.

On the other hand, Google Maps will track your location by default, which lets it accumulate a lot of data about your real-world movements. To stop it, head to the settings: Launch the app, tap the Menu button (three lines) on the top left of the screen, and hit Settings (on Android) or the cog icon (on iOS). Within the settings, select Personal content and turn off the location history feature.

There are millions of apps on the market, with no hard and fast rules about how to keep them from recording your behavior. But in general, a good first step is to check for the aforementioned settings—incognito mode and stopping tracking.

If you don't find these options, you'll have to clear your activity manually. This process will vary depending on your operating system.

In Android, open Settings > Apps & notifications, pick an app from the list and hit Storage > Clear storage. This wipes all the data that the app has stored locally. Afterward, the app will behave as if you've installed it from scratch, so you'll need to log in again, set up your preferences, and so on.

On iOS, you won't find an identical option, but you can achieve the same effect by uninstalling and reinstalling an app. Open the Settings app, tap General > iPhone Storage, and select one of your apps. Then choose Delete App to wipe all of its data. Finally, re-install the program from the App Store.

It's not very practical to do this for all of your apps every day. But you might choose to run a manual clean-up at set intervals (say once a month), before you go traveling, or whenever you want to make a fresh start.

Delete search history

Many mobile apps store data locally and in the cloud, so they can sync your information to other devices. That means, to clear search logs from your phone, you'll have to wipe the records across multiple platforms.

For example, your Google account will store the history of searches you've run from your Android phone. To wipe these records, you actually have to access them from the web. Open your browser and head to your Google activity history page. Click the Menu button (three lines) on the top left, then Delete activity by. Set the time span and content type—to erase everything, those should be All time and Search, respectively—and click Delete. This will wipe your search history across all the Google-linked products you use, including Android and the Google search engine.

Categorized in Science & Tech

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