Space is becoming too crowded, Rocket Lab CEO warns New York (CNN) In 1978, NASA scientist Donald Kessler warned of a potential catastrophic, cascading chain reaction in outer space. Today known as “Kessler Syndrome,” the theory posited that space above Earth could one day become so crowded, so polluted with both active satellites and the detritus of space explorations past, that it could render future space endeavors more difficult, if not impossible.
Last week, the CEO of Rocket Lab, a launch startup, said the company is already beginning to experience the effect of growing congestion in outer space.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said that the sheer number of objects in space right now — a number that is growing quickly thanks in part to SpaceX’s satellite internet constellation, Starlink — is making it more difficult to find a clear path for rockets to launch new satellites.
“This has a massive impact on the launch side,” he told CNN Business. Rockets “have to try and weave their way up in between these [satellite] constellations.”
Part of the problem is that outer space remains largely unregulated. The last widely agreed upon international treaty hasn’t been updated in five decades, and that’s mostly left the commercial space industry to police itself.
Rocket Lab set out to create lightweight rockets — far smaller than SpaceX’s 230-foot-tall Falcon rockets — that can deliver batches of small satellites to space on a monthly or even weekly basis. Since 2018, Rocket Lab has launched 12 successful missions and a total of 55 satellites to space for a variety of research and commercial purposes. Beck said the in-orbit traffic issues took a turn for the worst over the past 12 months.
It was over that time that SpaceX has rapidly built up its Starlink
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