Hira Virdee, CEO, Lumi Space
Space traffic management is an emerging market within the industry itself, addressing one of the most pressing challenges the sector is facing. One pioneer seeking to provide an effective solution to this challenge is CEO of Lumi Space, Hira Virdee. Here, we find out more about his thoughts on the how to create a more sustainable space, and what he hopes to see implemented in the future.
Please could you introduce you tell us more about your role as CEO at Lumi Space.
I founded Lumi Space from the insight that I had back during my PhD in astrodynamics: that commercially-available space situational awareness data is lacking. It's important to have a combination of data sources, particularly in as critical an environment as space. We need a variety of "sources of truth" to feed into space models. Laser ranging has been the gold standard for the scientific and geodetic communities. Applying those principles to the now-vast commercial activity is an important step towards ensuring sustainable space operations.
You are going to be discussing the topic of space sustainability- where do you think the current gaps are in the ensuring effective space sustainability (technological, regulatory, or otherwise)?
The key gap has been regulatory for the history of human space activity this far. Space activity isn't really something that can be regulated effectively due to international tensions- and we see an increased militarisation of the space domain. The technology already exists to close this gap, it's the high cost which is the biggest disincentive for the commercial space sector.
Do you think that enough is being done to close this gap? What further needs to be done?
There are lots of initiatives and disparate attempts to have meaningful impact. The main thing that needs to be done, which is lacking currently, is implementing guidelines. The framework for sustainable space activity has been around for years, and there's been a lot of talk, but the narrative hasn't changed significantly. Operators need to take small, meaningful steps.
What do you think a ‘sustainable space’ will look like in the future?
In the future, sustainable space won't require continuous effort from satellite operators. Debris can be nudged via a system of ground-based lasers, so we won't be moving the satellites as frequently - we'll move (and de-orbit) the debris from the ground. Until then, sustainable space requires a combination of satellite operator actions (making sure your satellite is trackable, sharing operational data such as when you intend to manoeuvre, adhering to end-of-life procedures and recommendations) and third-party input to understand which collisions are most likely to occur.
If you were sent to spend a year alone onboard a spacecraft, what one item would you take for entertainment?
My daughter! She'd be small enough to be my stowaway, but she'd keep me entertained just as she has done for the last few years. It'd be the trip of a lifetime! I realise that wouldn't technically be alone so it'd have to be a kindle/iPad.