Of the approximately 6,000 satellites in space, only around 1,300 are operational. These inactive satellites that roam uncontrolled around Earth risk colliding with the satellites that are still operational.
If these operational satellites get damaged, it has huge implications for the services that we use every day, for example, navigation, telecommunication, weather forecasting, earth observation, security, and disasters prevention and management.
An Italian SME, D-Orbit, has developed a unique decommissioning device for satellites called 'D3'. The device is attached to a satellite and can direct it into safe higher orbits, or direct falling parts that survive the high heat of re-entry to land in a controlled way in the sea, where they cannot cause any damage.
This not only helps to guarantee our day-to-day space-based services, but also helps to keep people safe from falling space debris.
Funding from the Horizon 2020 SME instrument helped this company build a business case and develop a prototype. This SME has brought a completely new and European technology to market and now offers the only solution for satellite disposal that is accepted worldwide accepted - an example of true European 'market-creating' innovation.