Executive at Astroscale
- Defining and outlining the space debris sector, addressing sources and threat imminence
- Debris removal technologies – feasibility, market opportunities and differentiation across companies
- Considerations for satellite service players, including majors such as SpaceX
- Regulatory environment and enforceability of international laws, plus 5-10-year outlook
How many commercial satellites are operating in LEO [low Earth orbit] today? How many will be operating by 2030 if all goes to plan? I’ve seen estimates for around 2,000 satellites added per year over the next 10 years, and for a total of 17,000-57,000 by 2030.
Is there a terminal amount or upper limit for the number of satellites that can reasonably fit and operate efficiently in LEO?
How would you go about estimating a figure for an upper limit? Are there any data points or things you would look at to estimate this limit?
You mentioned a pretty significant increase in two objects getting closer together. Could you quantify that?
What are the primary sources of space debris? How prevalent of an issue is space debris to commercial satellites today?
How often are there collisions today and could you give some historical comparison? What are the costs associated with collisions? I would assume it depends on what actually gets hit or broken.
How do you expect the issue of space debris to evolve? You said we’re not even seeing collisions on a yearly basis, but should we expect over the next few years it will become yearly, monthly or daily? How could this evolve over a 10-year horizon?
What is the likelihood that the Kessler syndrome will actually unfold – that the density of objects in LEO will be high enough to cause a cascading collision effect? What are your views on the Kessler syndrome generally?
What does the tipping point look like? Would one big collision that creates 10,000 pieces of debris be enough to start the Kessler syndrome feedback loop? Is there a certain number or size of debris pegged to it?
What are the primary solutions for dealing with space debris, touching on tracking and de-orbiting?
Do you have any estimate for the size of the debris field or how many pieces of debris are in LEO?
Who are the main players offering tracking technologies? How do their technologies differ?
Are you more optimistic about ground-based vs in-orbit tracking? Where might the shortfalls lie on both sides?
What differentiates tracking companies? If you grouped ground-based and in-orbit tracking, it seems they’re all focused on a similar goal and have a similar function. What makes one player’s tracking technology better than the next?
What can players such as SpaceX or Amazon, who have ambitions to put thousands of satellites in LEO, do prior to sending them up to avoid space debris-related issues?
It sounds as if to address the space debris issue, satellite players need to be a bit more proactive in that there’s an added cost element too on a per unit basis. Am I understanding that correctly? If so, what added costs might there be per unit for any company with ambitions to build a constellation?
What are SpaceX and Starlink doing in the space debris arena with their satellites? Are they taking any pre-emptive measures similar to what you mentioned with OneWeb?
How do you think about the right way of approaching launching satellites? You’ve talked about OneWeb’s approach by being a bit proactive and then SpaceX lowering its orbits. It seems there is a trade-off, whether companies have to sacrifice revenue or coverage to mitigate this issue. Is there a specific mix that you think makes sense here?
What are the most promising technologies in space debris removal? This would include pushing debris up, dragging it into the atmosphere, harpoons, lasers and nets. Do any of these solutions make more sense economically or feasibly?
Do any debris removal solutions make more or less sense economically or feasibly at scale, five or 10 years out? Is there any solution you’re more optimistic or pessimistic about because you doubt it could work at scale?
Are there any international regulations that stand today? How do you expect global policy to evolve, and who will be the groups taking action?
Who would pay for the removal of space debris? Will it be the operators or governments?
What are the worst- and best-case scenarios for dealing with space debris over the next 5-10 years?
Could you summarise everything we’ve discussed and mention key players that you’re monitoring over the next 5-10 years?
How large is the space debris market? Could you peg a TAM to it?
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