Steve Wozniak’s new ‘Privateer’ exits stealth mode, takes aim at space junk

Steve Wozniak’s new ‘Privateer’ venture has exited stealth mode. The firm is creating the data infrastructure that will enable sustainable growth for the new space economy.

Steve "Woz" Wozniak
Steve “Woz” Wozniak

Privateer promises proprietary knowledge graph technology that offers much-needed enhancements to collecting and processing information about space objects. Even as orbital highways become more congested, this data and the applications built on it will allow space operators to maneuver safely and effectively.

The first of many apps to be built on Privateer’s data engine is Wayfinder: an open-access and near real-time visualization of satellites and debris in Earth orbit.

Privateer's Wayfinder
Privateer’s Wayfinder

Jackie Wattles for CNN Business:

Privateer’s mission is to develop better tracking of objects in space, and to use this data to help avert disastrous collisions. To aid in this effort, Wozniak and Fielding brought in Moriba Jah, a PhD and orbital mechanics professor who has dedicated most of his life to academia and attempting to raise awareness about the ever-growing threat posed by the proliferation of debris and garbage in outer space. It’s a threat that could wipe out satellites that provide communications services to Earth or even bring space travel to a grinding halt. He’s led research at the University of Texas. He’s appeared at Congressional hearings. He’s advocated for change on the world’s stage. But Jah told CNN Business recently came to a solemn conclusion: There is not enough funding in academia to develop the technologies he envisions the world needs to combat the space junk issue, he says.

So, Jah went searching for that funding. And it brought him to Wozniak, the coding savant who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs.

The trio are not chasing the same dreams as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Privateer won’t develop flashy new rockets and launch people toward the stars. It will instead focus solely on battling the looming threat of debris in Earth’s orbit, millions of pieces of which are flying around uncontrolled, threatening to destroy active satellites [with which] they may come into contact…

On Tuesday, Privateer is officially leaving “stealth mode” and debuting the first version of its software, which will monitor traffic in space. In interviews with CNN Business, the founders laid out a grand vision, with goals to build the type of database that space traffic experts — including governments — currently only dream of…

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4 Comments

  1. While I have great respect for Woz’s capabilities, I don’t see how this private venture is better than things already accessible by satellite operators including data available directly (or indirectly) from NORAD and sites like Celestrak.

    For several years you have been able to get data with regard to junk that is baseball size or larger. Recently systems have been coming on line that provide information with regard to even smaller objects. That capability will only improve in the next few years.

    The problem with space junk is that while everyone recognizes it’s a problem — even those that have significantly added to the problem in the last few years (China and Russia, I’m looking most closely at you) — no one, I repeat, no one, wants to pay more than a pittance to do the actual clean up.

  2. I actually like this – that we have already effed up local space without even living there in our nearly 7 billion capacity is telling. Given that even in the advent of casual space travel – we can only go so far from the earth in even the most advanced scenarios – I don’t know what the point would be if this is the reality. is it possible for the human race to surpass greed or personal ego and comfort and just coexist with nature? That is still a very big question mark. If we ever made it to Mars, and I doubt we will in my lifetime, if we haven’t learned much of anything, gain, what would be the point for us, collectively? And no, people like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson who pretty much embody the negative characteristics just described, are not the ones to ask. they are also not the ones to send. they are not the ones to include in the conversation in any way, shape, or form.

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