Andrew Faiola, Commercial Director, Astroscale Ltd
With the number of active satellites in orbit currently at around 10,000, space sustainability is becoming a hot topic. Just like any engineered vehicle, these satellites will at some point need servicing to ensure they do not clutter up our orbital highways and become space debris. Once an idea of the future, the global on-orbit servicing and manufacturing market is forecast to be worth over USD 5.1 billion by 2030. Astroscale is the first private company with a vision to secure the safe and sustainable development of space for the benefit of future generations, and the only company dedicated to on-orbit servicing across all orbits. Andrew Faiola, Astroscale Ltd.’s Commercial Director, shares his thoughts on how we can move away from a single-use, throwaway culture and toward a circular economy in space.
Please could you tell us more about your role as Commercial Director at Astroscale?
Astroscale has a mission to make in-space servicing routine by 2030. In order to do that, we need to be able to offer a service that is desirable, economical, and viable. My team and I are at the intersection of those three traits. The Marketing and Communications team is out there building demand, delivering compelling content, and promoting what we are doing every day. The Business Development team is responsible for winning institutional bids and developing our commercial services across the portfolio, from the humble docking plate all the way through to constellation-grade end-of-life services.
How would you describe the current challenge regarding space debris and the technological innovation that is coming available to tackle this?
Space debris comes in all shapes and sizes which is a big challenge in itself, but if you want to prevent the creation of more small debris, you need to start with the larger objects in more congested orbits. This is where the industry is focusing much of its attention today as the technology has progressed to the point where these services are now feasible. But there are many choices to be made in terms of spacecraft design and capture technology. Then there is the challenge of developing safe and effective rendezvous and proximity operations. Decisions taken in all these areas impact on each of the others and also impact the potential addressable market, so analysing those trade-offs as a whole system becomes part of any company’s special sauce.
What will Astroscale’s role be in future debris mitigation?
Our ambition is to avoid another tragedy of the commons as we have seen so many times on the ground. We want to be a catalyst for helping other users of space think about how to transition from today’s single-use, throwaway culture towards one where recycling, and ultimately re-use, becomes the norm. The services we offer will enable that circular economy in space to take shape.
What do you consider the most promising technology for the space industry in the years to come?
Perhaps the most promising technology for the space industry may actually be space-adjacent. I have seen the rapid expansion over the past decade of so many different types of Earth observation technology launched into space, whether that be increasingly frequent or precise imaging, or observation across a wide range of different frequency bands or spectrum for different applications. But what is truly special is the many companies turning this raw data into actionable insights to help find new ways to monitor, mitigate, and combat climate change. Over half of all measurable data points on climate change are being collected from space. Now, imagine a space environment that is unusable because certain orbital shells are too polluted for these spacecraft to operate, and we essentially become unable to understand the changes happening to our planet at a global level.
If you could travel anywhere into space, without the restrictions of time and resources, where would you go, how will you travel there, and why?
Perhaps I just have simple tastes, but getting to low-Earth orbit just to spend my days gazing down at Earth would be plenty for me. As for how to get there, as long as someone else is paying, I can be quite flexible!
Founded in 2013, Astroscale is developing innovative and scalable solutions across the spectrum of on-orbit servicing, including life extension, in-space situational awareness, end-of-life, and active debris removal, to create sustainable space systems and mitigate the growing and hazardous buildup of debris in space. Astroscale is also defining business cases and working with government and commercial stakeholders to develop norms, regulations, and incentives for the responsible use of space. Headquartered in Japan, Astroscale has subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, and France. Astroscale is a rapidly expanding venture company, working to advance safe and sustainable growth in space and solve growing environmental concerns.