Meet the Company Cleaning Up Space Trash Before It Gets Created

D-orbit is focused on eliminating space debris with the help of smart satellite disposal systems.

von B the Change, February 20, 2018
D-Orbitb Eliminating Space Trash

Today, more than 6,000 satellites are in space, of which only 1,000 are still operational. The remaining are orbiting around the Earth, uncontrolled. These and other forms of space debris are putting our existing services, think GPS navigation and weather forecasting, at risk of collision and destruction. How Italian 2017 Best for the World honoree D-Orbit is looking to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place.

An artist’s rendering of space debris in orbit. Credit: European Space Agency.

An artist’s rendering of space debris in orbit. Credit: European Space Agency.

Up to a few years ago, outer space was substantially empty of manmade objects and risk of mutual collision was relatively low. Now, about 20,000 objects larger than 5 cm are lying at 18,000 miles per hour (more than 30’000 km/h), increasing the risk of mutual collision. This could cause a collision chain that could severely damage our space assets, compromising most of the services that we use on Earth every day (e.g. GPS navigation, telecommunication, disaster prevention, weather forecasts, etc.).

D-Orbit seeks to solve the problem at the source. The company develops smart satellite disposal systems (D-Orbit Decommissioning Devices, D3) that can be installed on spacecraft and launcher stages before launch. The devices are able to remove spacecraft and satellites in a quick, safe and controlled manner from their orbits. The objective is to help operators save their assets (i.e. orbital slots), reduce operational costs and risks, and consequently provide easier, sustainable and profitable access to space.

D-Orbit is a 2017 Best for the World honoree. Find the full list of Best for the World companies and all of the stories about these companies setting the gold standard for people using business as a force for good.

We at B the Change were, needless to say, fascinated by D-Orbit’s mission and work, so we asked the company a few questions about how and why they live into their mission every day.

What practices has your company implemented that have helped you become Best for the World?

Our environmental impact is important to our company’s operations and mission. We have increased our energy efficiency by using 100 percent LED lighting. We have reduced our carbon impact, saving 50 tons of C02 thanks to extensive usage of public transportation, and we have adopted water-consumption reduction technologies at company’s production venue. And, 45 percent of our suppliers were selected within 322 km from the production venue.

D-Orbit employees examining one of the company’s products.

D-Orbit employees examining one of the company’s products.

We also work with our local community to increase awareness about using business as a fore for good. Through our “Alternating School-Work” project with schools in the Lake Como area, we disseminate information about B Corps and other themes ,such as innovation, entrepreneurship and space engineering. Every employee has paid time off for volunteering activities as well.

D-Orbit contributed to adoption of the benefit corporation model in Italy, and served as a a case study in innovation and in applying the B Corp model to space.

In what ways does the company include and consider your stakeholders in achieving your mission and having a positive impact? How has it contributed to the company fulfilling its mission?

D-Orbit practices sharing of time, ideas, tools and documents as instruments for improving relations among the people, company productivity, and internal capability of innovation. As a “Società Benefit,” (Italian benefit corporation), the company also intends to pursue one or more common benefits and act in a responsible, sustainable and transparent way to people, communities, territories and the environment; cultural and social activities; organizations and associations; and other stakeholders.

Specifically relating to our workers, we have increased the number of employees by 60 percent from 2015 (15) to 2016 (24). D-Orbit team members are empowered to define their working schedule around their needs, and the company offers the possibility to work remotely to accommodate family and personal needs. D-Orbit invests in the development of its personnel. The course of 2016 team members received a combined 270 hours of training.

What goals does D-Orbit have for continued improvement?

We are aiming to reduce our electricity consumption, heat consumption and water consumption by 5 percent the end of 2018. We are also tracking the following areas using specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):

  1. Improve employee knowledge in job-related areas (KPI: People training time > 16h/person)
  2. Improve employee engagement (KPI: People satisfaction = 2, out of 4)
  3. Set up a bidirectional feedback system between D-Orbit and independent suppliers (KPI: Supplier satisfaction: 80–100 percent)
  4. Set up an evaluation methodology for suppliers that include also social and environmental performance (KPI: 50 percent of suppliers screened within 2017)
  5. Improve the involvement and awareness of employees in relation to the B Corp movement (KPI: B Corp training evaluation: effective)
  6. Set up a customer satisfaction/engagement analysis to evaluate projects (KPI: 100% of projects evaluated against customer satisfaction)

What does earning a place on the Best for the World lists mean for your company?

It is, of course, a point of pride, but it goes well beyond that. It is an important recognition of our social and environmental engagement and, at the same time, a reminder that there’s great room for improvement … and that we’ll never stop working to keep deserving to be listed among the Best for the World.

A version of this article originally appeared on B the Change. B the Change is building a global community of Certified B Corporations. Read more stories of people using business as a force for good in B the Change, or sign up to receive the B the Change Weekly newsletter for more stories like the one above, delivered straight to your inbox.