Broadcast 3283 Chris Blackerby

12 Mar 2019 Chris Blackerby
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Guest:  Chris Blackerby;  Topics:  Removing space debris, business plans, effective development strategies, making a profit, risk, technology development, propulsion and more.

 

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We welcomed Chris Blackerby to the show to discuss space debris removal, the plans and strategies being worked on by his company Astroscale, to remove the debris. Please note that Chris was using a cell phone from Japan.  While this was a one segment 1 hour 28 minute discussion, there were audio issues.  We lost our connection to Chris twice in the latter part of the show but fortunately I was able to reconnect with him.  In addition, there were some audio modulation issues after the first time we lost the connection.  Fortunately, we were able to reconnect with Chris after the two times we lost the connect so we were able to carry on with a normal length Space Show program.  We apologize for the audio issues but as we all know, cell phones are not always reliable for live radio.

I started our discussion by asking Chris how he went from working at NASA HQ to working with space debris based in Tokyo.  Chris told his story which was interesting, then we jumped into a comprehensive space debris discussion.  One of my early questions dealt with the fact that space debris problems have been aired on TSS for nearly 19 years and there is still little to show for it in terms of mitigating the problem.  I asked Chris why that was so.  Don't miss what Chris said in response to my question, then he talked about the uniqueness of the approach to the problem by Astroscale.  Chris detailed their three prong focus going after technology development, policy and needed regulatory reform, and having a winning and profitable business of removing LEO orbital debris.  We spent considerable time discussion these three approaches.  Listener email questions were answered as well.  Don't miss this discussion as we broke the groups into subsets for our discussion such as liability, long term investing and investor ROI requirements. We also discussed the list of potential customers and who might pay for these services. 

As for technology, we talked about current voluntary rules regarding the satellite 25 year end of life, how to deal with older satellites that have no technology aboard for capture, servicing, or deorbiting plus new technology ideas including the use of a strong magnet.  The magnet idea was explained in detail as it is being developed by the company for its demo flight next year.  Don't miss this discussion.

Marshall was our first caller.  He wanted to focus on what constituted a space weapon.  Marshall proposed that anything that was done to bring a satellite down or mitigate it from being debris could be construed as a weapon.  He suggested an acceptable international approved definition for a space weapon.  He also talked about the market and who might pay for these services. 

John Hunt was the next caller after we reconnected with Chris as that was when we suffered one of the two dropped calls I mentioned earlier.  John wanted to focus on the massive scale of the problem given space and the amount of debris.  He talked about the very large number of launches that would be needed.  Chris confirmed the launch quantity and talked about talking with various launch companies about launch possibilities because it would require a massive number of launches once the mitigation program was underway.  John also raised cost and payment questions.  Another question he asked Chris was if there was a priority list for what debris needed to be removed first.  The answer was yes but listen to what Chris had to say on this subject.  Be sure to post your comments and thoughts on this on our blog for this show.

After John's call, I asked Chris what his biggest challenge was.  Don't miss his detailed reply but he did say all three of the areas of their focus were big challenges.  As we were nearing the end of the program, we took a call from Tim in Huntsville. Tim wanted to talk rocket propulsion, suggesting we would need something more than chemical propulsion. He inquired about electro-dynamic-tethers and other types of propulsion and potential debris removal ideas.  Chris had much to say on propulsion needs for their business plan.

Before we ended our discussion, I asked him about their having raised in excess of $100 million through venture capital and what type of investor would invest in this type of business.  Don't miss the business scenario and description I put forth which Chris concurred with, both as to Astroscale but all cutting edge emerging space business.  This was a very interesting and relevant discussion regarding a frequently discussed topic on The Space Show.  I urge you to pay attention to it and remember it for the next time the topic comes up on the program.  Before the program ended, we talked about the company, the growth the company has had, and their expansion plans in the UK and the United States.

Please post your comments/questions on the blog for this program.  You can reach Chris through their website at www.astroscale.com or me. 

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New concepts for space debris removal

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