Join Tim in this relaxed chat with Alex Fielding about his path through the space industry and what Privateer is working on.
As CEO & Chairman of Privateer Space, Alex Fielding is responsible for supporting the leadership, vision and execution of the company. Privateer, co-founded by Steve Wozniak, is focused on space safety, sustainability, and intelligence. Fielding held engineering leadership roles at Cisco Systems and Apple. Shortly after departing Apple, he worked at Exodus Communications with Ellen Hancock, Exodus’ CEO who was Apple’s former CTO. He co-founded GPS company Wheels of Zeus with Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak in 2001, which was sold in 2006. Alex was Chief Technology Officer, at Power Assure and then Vice President at Vigilent before starting Ripcord while a contractor at NASA working for the CTO. Alex was CEO at Ripcord from 2014-2021 and remains on the Board of Directors. Alex is on the Board of Directors of The Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME). He is a on the mentor board of Orange Fab and an advisor to Astra Space.
[00:01:39] Alex Fielding: how are you? I'm great. How are you, Alex? Hey, doing fantastic.
[00:01:49] Tim Chrisman: Oh, I love your back.
[00:01:51] Alex Fielding: Your backdrop. Oh, thanks. It's I used to use that whiteboard, but then I'd find myself having to erase it before every zoom. So I was like, this is getting ridiculous. I'll put [00:02:00] another whiteboard over here that I can actually use.
[00:02:02] I'll just, I'll toss some artwork on here.
[00:02:05] Tim Chrisman: Oh, there you, you is the who's in the space, a
[00:02:08] Alex Fielding: suit. That's my daughter. That's actually Joey. Oh yeah, it's a creepy photo of her because she's not even three years old yet, but We sent some pictures to this artist that paints these things. And she gave her like a full set of white teeth and I was like, she's two and a half.
[00:02:23] There's what type of a two and a half has a full set of white teeth. Yeah, that's crazy. It was definitely, that was, yeah. That's Zoey. That's my little love.
[00:02:32] Tim Chrisman: Nice.
[00:02:36] Oh my goodness. Yeah. Thanks for coming coming
[00:02:38] Alex Fielding: on and making time. No, thank you for making time to do this. I really appreciate it. I've been following you guys. And Kevin O'Connell of course is our mutual I guess he's our cousin now. I don't know. He works with both of us, but more or less B guy just,
[00:02:54] Tim Chrisman: yeah.
[00:02:54] Wonderful. I know just, yeah, one of those just
[00:02:55] Alex Fielding: great humans. Yeah, truly. Yeah. Amazing.
[00:02:58] Tim Chrisman: But yeah, no. So [00:03:00] typically this is about 30 minutes. If you have like a stump speech and pitch that you wanna get out about private tier, we can do that first and then go into like facilitated Q and a, or we can just have a conversation about you.
[00:03:17] Where did you come from? How did you get here? What's up with private tier. Where's it going? That sort.
[00:03:22] Alex Fielding: Yeah. I What do you recommend? I You're the master of universe.
[00:03:25] Tim Chrisman: It is dealer's choice. I, we try to make sure that this is something that works for the companies that are coming on.
[00:03:32] We want you to get as much out of it as, as we are. And if it's helpful to talk private tier all private tier. Great. If you wanna dive into a little bit of, Hey, this is how Alex got into space it's you can too thing.
[00:03:46] Alex Fielding: I wanna
[00:03:46] Tim Chrisman: know about private tier.
[00:03:48] You have a Wikipedia page, private tier doesn't.
[00:03:52] Alex Fielding: Oh privateer is way more interesting. I don't know how that Wikipedia page came about, but I know every six months the facts on it seemed to [00:04:00] change, which is very humorous. It's like, what is going on here? It's like Russian roulette of Wikipedia.
[00:04:05] Tim Chrisman: Evidently you're a member of Mensa. You have several dozen patents and yeah, no, it's.
[00:04:11] Alex Fielding: The patents, aren't that interesting. There's, the, the fun, the funny part is that many wa and I did a startup 20 years ago called wheels of zoos. And we were building small, like GPS locators for kids in dogs and stuff like that.
[00:04:25] And at least that's what we thought we were doing. We actually got the company funded in August of 2001. So a month before nine 11, Which tells you how old I am. There's like dust coming off me. And the crazy thing was that Steve is a beyond brilliant engineer. He is. He's an alien species when it comes to brilliant engineer.
[00:04:46] Yeah. And just a level human, truly the biggest heart of anyone I've ever met really. But when we were doing wheels, we started patenting things because Steve was actually behind a lot of the technology. He was doing work on, EEM and signal to noise through [00:05:00] reflected signal for GPS through concrete.
[00:05:03] So like how do you get a good GPS signal in the middle of Midtown Manhattan and stuff like that? Yeah. And so of course we, with our greedy company brains on are patenting the crap out of everything, right? Like we will patent it and Steve was, yes, we will patent it. And I said, this is great. Finally, like we're a hundred percent aligned.
[00:05:23] We're filing these patents. And I talked to Steve, I said, we had to go raise a bunch of money. We raised a bunch of cash from SoftBank to get the company really fully going. And Steve goes yeah. It'll be great when we can get these patents away. And I was like, what?
[00:05:40] And he goes yeah, we're not gonna charge people to use these patents. And we were spending a fortune patenting, not cheap. Yeah. Yeah. I've got
[00:05:49] Tim Chrisman: four it's
[00:05:50] Alex Fielding: it's a process. It's right. It's like one of those things where, I married a therapist, it doesn't show, Being super helpful.
[00:05:57] And we I looked at Steve and I was like, [00:06:00] what do you mean give them away? Like the concept of an open source patent was not a concept in 2001. Yeah. Yeah. And we were having milkshakes and because I'm fat and food motivated and Steve loves milkshakes and we were out having milkshakes at one in the morning or something and he goes, I really don't think anybody should patent something to prevent people from moving forward.
[00:06:23] Yeah. So I agree. His attitude was like, we should patent this, make it available to anyone that wants to site it, reference it, or use it so that they can get a leg up so that someone else doesn't greedily block the market from doing really cool stuff. And then it's our job to just keep out innovating ourselves.
[00:06:40] And if we don't shame on us, right? Yeah. Because we, then we failed ourselves and our friends and our company. But it was a lesson learned for me. It was. He's right. Of course, he's right. But that's not the way everybody would think about it. No, that's true. So I think, and in a weird way, [00:07:00] wheels of zes was which, I mean was the tongue in cheek.
[00:07:02] We were trying to come up with a name for a company and turns out we suck at branding. So he was like we'll call it. Wheels of Jesus was that company. Back then when you built a GPS stack, there was no system on a chip, you couldn't just go and get something and everything would work.
[00:07:17] You had to do everything yourself. You had to do the hybrid design, power management software, packaging, the whole thing. Yeah. And we were really interested in improving GPS specifically for a whole host of tracking purposes that we thought were really good. Yeah. And we had about 2000 things on orbit at the time 2000 active or 2000 satellites on orbit.
[00:07:40] Only a thousand were active. So 20 years ago, half of the satellites in space were dead then. Yeah. Yeah. And we need to joke with each other. We were like, man, someday we will be the first space sanitation engineers. We will ride on the back of the trash truck. We will toss the satellites in the compactor.
[00:07:57] And over the last 20 years, we [00:08:00] kept joking about it. Anytime we'd see each other. We weren't tracking the specific number, but you could see just by launches that the amount of garbage was going up. Yeah. And we weren't really focused on it as we're gonna go build a business to go clean up space.
[00:08:16] I That was not, yeah, that was never really the main motivation. The motivation was help people clean up space and help people not make space a mess. Yeah. Yeah. 20 years later, Steve calls me and is really interested in doing something. And we're tracking 33,000 ish things in space off which 25,000 plus or trash.
[00:08:37] Yeah. That's the definition of the tragedy of the commons. Nobody did anything.
[00:08:42] Tim Chrisman: And there was no incentive for anybody to fix anything. Just like there, wasn't an incentive for free patents. So yeah.
[00:08:49] Alex Fielding: This is it's really strange to cuz the space communities being like my mafia, I actually started my career working on inner satellite routing protocols when nobody needed them.
[00:08:58] So you know, [00:09:00] when I was a kid, we used to use space as basically mirrors in the sky. We would use satellites to just bounce broadband signal sometimes. MTV's the first big commercial use case. I would say MTV was a bigger, early commercial use case than GPS for normal everyday people.
[00:09:17] Yeah. And then. Space matured and evolved over time. But if you look at what went up and how we moved data around planet earth 20 years ago, 25 years ago, when I was a kid getting started on all this stuff. If you wanted to move data around the planet, your number one choice was under C fiber optic cables.
[00:09:37] No question, but they don't go everywhere and they're expensive as hell. They're hard to maintain. And I didn't even know it until 20 years ago, but there's a whole business called fiber piracy. Where if you happen to be near the coast of a country, that's hurting economically because all the fiber optic cable is shielded.
[00:09:54] They basically dive down to the most shallow and they hook up on a. With wind [00:10:00] and they just reel in and cut the fiber off the cable to get the shielding. They chop the shielding off, they throw the fiber away in the ocean and then they bail cuz they don't wanna get arrested. And this is like a massive business in the emerging world, which is actually kept the emerging world for a long time from being very well connected.
[00:10:18] And so that early work that I was doing was on how do you get a signal from Leo Mio to geo to ground without having to go and down and up and down through the atmosphere? Yep. Yep. But it was useless when I was working on it, which is great. And then, did wheels zoo, which we ended up spending a lot more time working on GPS than we thought we would.
[00:10:35] And then ended up at NASA for five years as an indentured servant. While I had a role at a commercial company working on fun stuff and. My last company rip cord was actually started in a concrete asbestos bunker at NASA Ames research center. In mountain view, we were incubated in a weird way under a space act agreement where we gave things to NASA and NASA gave us some help.
[00:10:57] Oh. And we were called Moffitt data. [00:11:00] Cuz again, we suck at branding. So we had no idea. What are you gonna name it? We're at Moffitt field Moffitt data, the worst name on planet earth. And we were in that concrete, asbestos bunker, and there were other, it was a good environment for having so much asbestos in the air because we were called Moffitt data.
[00:11:16] And there was this company next door called Cosmo, which became planet labs. And we became ripcord. So ultimately their branding, our branding improved. Yeah. Yeah. We moved out. And one of the, those cast of characters that was there was our government boss or bosses, Chris Kemp and Pete war. Chris became the CEO of Astra who, my friend and and absolutely brilliant, crazy person.
[00:11:40] And Luca Rossini, who was at Cosmo when they were still Cosmo is now the CEO of deorbit in Italy. And this was so we were all sharing coffee makers and asbestos. Yeah. And to think that multiple companies, especially in as space community somehow were born years later. You, you just can't make this stuff
[00:11:58] Tim Chrisman: up.
[00:11:59] No, it was [00:12:00] must been something in the NASA is Vestus. Yeah.
[00:12:02] Alex Fielding: People don't realize, everybody thinks, like when you're a kid we all like we all end up with the shirt and the coffee mug. And of course, like NASA is one of the only agencies you can root for as an actual exactly.
[00:12:13] Human, right? Yeah. Nobody ever wears the IRS. T-shirt right. No. Do they have
[00:12:18] Tim Chrisman: t-shirts? I'll bet they do.
[00:12:22] Alex Fielding: if not, we've created a new market for someone I know I'm gonna, I'm gonna look this. I need my IRS. T-shirt this is, this is different than I voted. I guess based on the percentages, some of us should have a sticker that says I paid my taxes.
[00:12:35] Exactly. I guess this what they should give out on April the 15th or whenever it's now 18th. But it, it was, it's really interesting cause people always think, when you're a kid, oh, I wanna be an astronaut. I wanna be an astronaut. And not every, there's a lot of people at NASA Mo the bulk, the vast majority that will never see space.
[00:12:52] Yep. Yep. But you tell yourself the story we are helping. Them get up there to do great things. And that's [00:13:00] why we're here. And then you end up in this concrete, asbestos, dark and there's signs on the wall. And the signs say everything in this building causes cancer. Okay. Then the next sign says, do not vacuum the floor.
[00:13:15] Wow. Now the reason is that the carpet's this thin and it, they built it at a time when they really did not obviously understand the danger of asbestos. But if you have a vacuum with a beater bar and it's beating crap outta concrete with asbestos and it flies into the air. That would be very bad.
[00:13:31] Yeah. So we would all work in this building with no air conditioning, cuz you also can't ventilate in that building windows open. In the dungeon with the asbestos and you leave just feeling super Hoar, because you can bring dust all day. Yeah. Or asbestos and dust. Probably both know, both we'll know years later.
[00:13:48] Exactly. I'll meet up with Chris and Pete and Luca and will probably like a wall be in the same nursing home together. but that would be entertaining. The space [00:14:00] nursing home coming. Ooh, there we go. No one ever pictures that side of working at NASA, but God, they really don't and such brilliant people cuz you know, people are drawn there with altruistic vision.
[00:14:10] No one ever goes to NASA to make a fortune cuz you can't. Yeah. You're government employee. But people go there cuz they care and they wanna do great things. And there are a lot of people who deeply care and really want to do great things. That's a oh for sure. Beautiful place. Oh
[00:14:24] Tim Chrisman: yeah. No. And for all.
[00:14:26] People talk about, oh, NASA failed. This. NASA's not doing this good. They're complaining around the edges. Sure. There's things, programs that might need to be cut, whatever, I'm reminded of last year we watched NASA basically burn a Rover into Mars. No, no stopping straight earth to Mars.
[00:14:47] Here, hold my beer. Like that's incredible.
[00:14:49] Alex Fielding: It's not. Yeah. And the, the first two Mars, the first two Mars Landers. NASA did a naming contest after we screwed up and plummeted the [00:15:00] first two. So they said, what are we gonna name the next two? And I, I'm a bit of a smart ass and you can participate as an employee, as a contractor.
[00:15:07] So I submitted my two names, which were not selected, which were metric and standard. There we go. I thought that would've been fantastic. Yeah. But no, they picked better names. We're good. Now this is,
[00:15:20] Tim Chrisman: maybe it was too. It was just too soon. It
[00:15:22] Alex Fielding: was too soon. Yeah. that should have been the t-shirt yeah.
[00:15:26] Tim Chrisman: Yeah. So somehow after all this, as best this you end up starting, private here. What was it that was behind this? You said Steve called you and was like, Hey, we need to do this, but what was
[00:15:39] Alex Fielding: the Genesis. We'd been talking about cleaning up space for so many years.
[00:15:42] It was almost a running joke. Yeah. And then we get to a point where I think the world acknowledges that this is the tragedy of the commons, and it's not just about an escape plan. It's about furthering humanity. And it's also about whether or not space [00:16:00] travel becomes. Thing that we're capable of at all or tourism.
[00:16:04] And it's about how we advance technology around planet earth. And yeah. Ultimately, getting from a surface of earth to geo stationary is a far bigger leap than from geo to the moon. And, and from the moon and with AR Laroche points and also going to Mars, we're clearly setting up that staging.
[00:16:22] And I think for all of how much Elon gets picked on this is an area. He probably should get a lot of praise for because. Without SpaceX, we would not be anywhere near as far ahead as we are. When Steve called and said, Hey, I'm really interested in this, like seriously.
[00:16:38] Yeah. Ripcord was on the path to going public and still is. Yeah. And we're bringing in an enterprise software, public company, CEO, excuse me. I knew at some point I would probably be looking for another job. Now, bizarrely enough, I'm still an employee at rip court and I'm still on the board and I still love the company to death and I'm still I have my pompoms out and I'm still a massive cheerleader, but I knew I'd be looking for [00:17:00] something to put my heart into.
[00:17:02] And, when was calls like you, don't not pick up the phone it's just, it's I'm still waiting.
[00:17:10] He's oh he texted me yesterday. I think he was at yeah, he's on the concert circuit right now, but oh I think the thing that really got to me was that I started very seriously looking at it just as a friend thing. What where are we? What is the state of space?
[00:17:23] Yeah. And what I found and I'll, if I can share my screen I'll this is not purely shameless. Self-promotion really shameless self promotion. Oh no. I
[00:17:32] Tim Chrisman: was gonna ask you to put this up. Cause it's amazing.
[00:17:36] Alex Fielding: So what you're looking at here is what we call way find. And where you find your, all of these orange dots are active satellites.
[00:17:42] All of the teal dots are dead satellites and everything that's pink or purple or gray is some form of catalog space debris. Yeah. So the bulk of what you're looking at is trash that we can see, which means it's bigger than 10 centimeters. Yep. Okay. Anything smaller than 10 centimeters? We're [00:18:00] very iffy on, mainly because we're using phase Ray radar from the ground.
[00:18:05] yeah. Which is not probably the best approach, but it's the currently most proliferated approach to tracking space. And so
[00:18:12] Tim Chrisman: that's about four inches for the Americans who are.
[00:18:15] Alex Fielding: That's right. Like it's about a softball size. Okay. So now if you zoom in on Wayfinder, you'll notice that the dots are actually moving.
[00:18:24] So we're running some determination and taking that tracking data into account. And if you click on any of these objects, what you'll see is. Here's us space, command, high resolution catalog. How fast is it going? So mean motion, speed, and period. So it's going roughly 18 ish thousand miles an hour, and it'll be back around in an hour and a half.
[00:18:44] Yeah. And we can see, exactly kind of inclination argument, GY ascending node eccentricity now, and you can see this number one here slowly creeping across the screen, which is that object that I've clicked on. Yeah. And we can see it's orbit path, right. It's orbit. now, if [00:19:00] we have more than one track source of tracking data turned on and we have a number that are privately available and we have some that are publicly available and of course I'm clicking around.
[00:19:11] And we're finding a lot of star links, right? And some other satellites. Let's see what we have here. Some one web, some others. And the reason that I show this I'm gonna cheat because I know we have all planets transponder data turned on. So I'm just gonna pick on, any flock and here we can see here's a flock two P 10 and this is not bad, right?
[00:19:33] We're looking at mean motion, speed, and period. We totally agree with planets onboard GPS as to where they are. Yeah. Between us government and planet argument of PGY. We're a little bit off in agreement on what the argument of PGY is. Now, if we zoom in on the map there's some Easter eggs and Wayfinder.
[00:19:53] So if I zoom in, you can now see object one and two that we don't agree exactly on where. [00:20:00] And, depending on the object and where it is over phase array at this moment, we will have, bigger and know, more substantial. Here's nearly one degree deviation and you can see over ground.
[00:20:14] That's probably, I could go do the math on, on an Excel spreadsheet, but we are probably at 70 ish kilometers of disagreement. Yeah. Between 0.1 and 0.2. Now keep in mind. Point one is about the highest resolution tracking we have in the government. And 0.2 is planets onboard GPS, which we would think would be pretty, pretty good.
[00:20:32] Tim Chrisman: Ideally it is.
[00:20:34] Alex Fielding: So the question became how in the world do you Rambi VU? How do you dock with an object where you don't agree on where it is within an average deviation and the average deviation of discrepancy in the space catalog for Leo is 200 kilometers. Oh, my God, based on our best available tracking sources.
[00:20:53] Now I'm not allowed to say some of their names because they can be a little sensitive, but when we turn on all that data and we compare it and [00:21:00] we do a mean deviation, 200 kilometers. Is a heck of a lot. And when I learned how bad the state of space tracking was, I called Steve back and I was like, man, I don't think you can do what you want to do.
[00:21:13] Cause he really, he was very interested in cleaning up space. I said, look, yeah, there's great companies out there, like Astra scale and clear space doing incredible work. Yeah. They're quite far ahead. They're getting to a point where the technology is beginning to mature and what I told Steve. How do you refuel?
[00:21:32] How do you station keep, how do you tug toe? How do you deorbit? How do you do debris removal? If you don't agree where the trash can is, how do you get a trash truck to it? What do you do drive around in a circle for 200 kilometers, 200 kilometers. It's a big distance. So yeah, when we started talking about.
[00:21:50] Steve was like what would you do? And I said, I would go build the Google maps, the space to start with so that we can get as many sources of data from as many companies operating in [00:22:00] space in one place. Yeah. In a way that they don't have to pay to do that, but they actually get benefit out of it.
[00:22:07] Yeah. Way finder on private tier is the start of that. We're also bringing some other technology to market really soon, which I probably shouldn't show because it's well, I'll show it anyway. We have a conjunction streaming service called res sec, which is tongue and cheek it's Kessler spelled backwards.
[00:22:22] And what you're seeing here is from 10 kilometers to closing and the next 20 minutes forward, all of the green dots are satellites flying with each. Or coming very close to each other. And if you click on this one that is clearly conjoined, right? It's at zero. If we click on the dot, we can see it's so used 16 with progress 14.
[00:22:46] So that makes sense. They're docked. Yeah. Yep. If we look at these yellow dots, we've got debris on payload. So if I click on the yellow dot, I can see it's. 27 RB, which I assume is a rocket booster with [00:23:00] flock three R six. And those things in the next couple minutes here are gonna come within a couple kilometers of each other.
[00:23:07] And we can view this on a map just to make this a little bit more visual as to where these things are. Now. Keep in mind. The color coding is the same as it is here. So payload on payload on debris on debris, but the bigger dot the higher, the risk. Yeah, and we're gonna be overlaying this on top of way.
[00:23:22] Find during the next 60 days. And wow. We can show what that's gonna look like, but what this will do for space operators that utilize the service. And we already have two very large space operators using this is it will answer the two currently unanswerable questions, which are. Okay.
[00:23:42] If you're one webinar on SpaceX and we have satellites that are gonna come very close to each other today, we get CDMs that are effectively notices that tell us yeah, you're in risk of hitting each other, right? Yeah. But I hate to say this, but a lot of times those things end up getting ignored, because they're very chatty and they don't really [00:24:00] tell you what the right thing to do is they just tell you, you have risk. And as we now know, the deviation space catalog is so large. As I spin this globe, you can see where some of the risk is, and we can interrogate these targets through the same targets that are getting billed.
[00:24:14] Yeah. The two questions, space operators really wanna know are okay. Who's got the right of way. Yeah. If you're SpaceX and on one web and we're heading towards each other or we're gonna cross each other's orbit. Who should move. Yeah. So the question one is who should move now? How do you determine that when there's nothing in the outer space actor treaties that says right away, like you can't just call starboard on somebody and then, they be like, okay.
[00:24:40] So that's question one. And then question two is where's the lowest risk position to move. And this is really tricky because you have to calculate the state vector telemetry of every single thing on the map, because you're in this 3d space. Yeah. You've gotta know what's a lower risk or a higher risk position.
[00:24:59] [00:25:00] And to determine right away, you also have to determine things that today in the space community, you're not well known. Hey am I afford Fiesta? And are you a Ferr? So what is our actual capability, right? What's the size of the propulsion. And even if we had equal propulsion and even if there was a construct for right away, which is a little difficult to determine, maybe we should also take into account who has more fuel on board to make it fair.
[00:25:24] Because if I'm almost outta gas, maybe if you have the luxury maneuvering around me that might be worth doing. If we can do it in a low risk maneuver. So these things feed into how do you keep space safe and accessible for humans? Yeah, and many of these services, including Wayfinder and re sack, were bringing to the community, the certain timeliness and a certain accuracy that are free and for space operators, we're giving them access to these things in exchange for state vectors, inflammatories that improve.
[00:25:59] The entire [00:26:00] kind of safe operating environment for okay. Lower orbit in particular. Yeah. Now, so that's what is the good we're doing for the world now? The second part is Man space is pretty messed up. You see all that trash it's that's not a simulation. That's all real data always.
[00:26:15] Yeah. Yeah. Purple dots. You can click on 'em you can figure out what they are. The problem is we can't see anything smaller than that. 10 centimeter mark. So there's millions of things we can't see. And MV squared is still MV squared in space, right? So a nine millimeter bullet now doing eight times the speed of that bullet on the ground.
[00:26:36] That's not good. No the other thing is we started looking at why is there all this stuff in space? Do you really need 50 cameras in space over flying key right now? Probably not. If we shared they're all looking at the same thing with about the same resolution. Yeah. We could probably always the same asset.
[00:26:58] Humanity's not so great [00:27:00] at sharing. Like my three year olds really bad out much faster than we are. yeah. My turn, your turn kind of works. So we started looking at that in terms of we're putting up our own satellite constellations that we call PO. And Pono is the Hawaiian word for basically karma.
[00:27:18] It's doing the right thing, trying to do the right thing. So in Hawaii where we're headquartered, if you were to tell somebody, I'm trying to do the Pono thing, or I wanna do the Pono thing, it really means like I'm trying to do the right thing. Yeah. And Wayfinder of course is also a nod to our adopted Hawaiian home, cuz we're headquartered in Maui which is also the island, that's the home and the OC observatory and other great stuff.
[00:27:39] So what are these POS gonna do? They're basically taking cameras, looking at earth, radio antennas, looking at earth, radar, looking in a bunch of places and some other sensors and making those available to developers on infrastructure as a service platforms like Amazon and Microsoft. So that say you [00:28:00] wake up tomorrow and you go, you know what?
[00:28:01] I really want an app that looks at glacier melt over the pole. And I would love to do that. And you're sitting in your dorm room and you go, I wonder how I can do it. You'll be able to just call that API tied to our camera pointing Nader. That happens to be on that set of satellites, traveling in polar orbits, get the images that you need to track climate change, build an application and deploy it for the cost of a pizza and a six pack of Coke.
[00:28:30] And that is a radical transformation because we're making our assets reliably and persistently fly in particular orbits and look at the same spot. So unlike really great companies that do this in a very bespoke high quality way, yeah. Labs or max are, or Hawkey, or those types of guys, we are doing this in a way that has very good quality, but it's incredibly reliably pointed.
[00:28:56] So our customers can't task our satellite. [00:29:00] If we happen to be flying where they want the data, because we can offer that through APIs, that can be oversubscribed. It makes a radical cost efficiency. So now, know, maybe you wanna, and I think about like the college entrepreneurship experience, right?
[00:29:14] Yeah. You've got some time. You've got brilliant people. They're in the same place. Yeah. You wake up one day and you go, wow. I wanna track illegal commercial fishing in the south Pacific. What do I need? Okay. I need an image. Classifier. I need a camera to identify these boats. I need a radio antenna to know when they're talking to each other and to look for their transponders.
[00:29:33] I wanna line this stuff up and I wanna get the bad guys who are basically overfishing the ocean and illegally not bringing it to that dock. If you could do that with our APIs and Amazon microservices or Azure microservices. Yeah. And you could have that launched in a day. For 20 bucks, 50 bucks in infrastructure cost on a spot instance with our stuff.[00:30:00]
[00:30:00] Yeah. You can unlock space to the 26 million enterprise developers that really shouldn't operate in space anyway. And shouldn't have to like, Amazon and Microsoft have made it possible to not need a data center when you need the lunch now. Exactly. Maybe we can help make it possible that you don't need the other part of that equation.
[00:30:19] So you can still use their compute and their, other things in orbit to make that stuff possible. Yeah. But you can use our stuff to feed that data in so you can compute those results actively and super cheaply. And I'm really excited about it because it also means if our stuff that we put up covers 80% of what you want to do in space, you don't have to put more trash in space.
[00:30:41] And we are being insanely mindful. I mean about everything from the reflectivity index of our satellites, to how we dispose of them, to what their morbidity and mortality rates are on reentry. We want them to have a footprint as small as possible. So they're gonna, when they hit the atmosphere and we will, of course [00:31:00] actively deorbit them, including having some backup systems.
[00:31:03] So we never leave our trash in space. So we're taking. A really hard kind of swing at how do you do those things and what does it mean? Cause it's yeah. Really meaningful to us.
[00:31:14] Tim Chrisman: No, that's incredible. I I frequently, when I talk about sort of the work we're doing here at the foundation, it's, working on that boring infrastructure piece because we want, my kids are eight and 10.
[00:31:26] I want their kids to be able to have a lemonade stand in space. Heck yes. That should be the standard for. How easy it is to do things in space.
[00:31:36] Alex Fielding: I really believe it. My, my wife was asking me like, if Zoe my, if my three year old daughter could go to space tomorrow, and in, in fairness, she, she could, we could probably get her a ride.
[00:31:46] Yeah. Would you let her go? And right now I would not. But that's because the known unknowns are so high. Oh yeah. One, one of the things that I think is really telling us if you look at geo [00:32:00] stationary space. Yeah. If you look at things that we have on geo orbit, yeah. 85% are commercially insured and reinsured.
[00:32:08] So the biggest insurance companies on earth cover those assets. Now part of it's cuz. Generally very expensive, but also because they're very, they're in a known place that we can look at all the time. Yep. And we have known risk, like pretty known risk in Leo, in our lower orbit 3%. And let me tell you, like insurance companies are risk adverse for a reason.
[00:32:36] Yeah. And it's not because the assets are cheap. There are some very good But they're not ensuring them because of the known unknowns. Yeah. And the known unknowns in Leo, we suck at astrodynamics in Leo. Okay. It's not because the models are broken it's because the input is broken. We don't know the shape, size mass volume, the material properties, the object.
[00:32:56] We don't have an open database for this. So we just [00:33:00] have a sphere or a bowl ball, right? Not, unlike the K machine with wings that they are sometimes exactly right. Or other. So we don't often agree on when our after dynamics models say, we are gonna determine that the object will be here the next time we see it.
[00:33:18] It often. Yeah, we also don't have traffic coordination. So when somebody moves, they didn't tell anybody, they just maneuvered. They just didn't. They're just somewhere we didn't know or expect. Yep. They don't often have transponders. So unlike planes that all have to have transponders for the most part, our satellites don't.
[00:33:38] Yeah. They don't even have corner reflectors on many, if not most of them. So they're even harder to precisely point or act, or actually determine where they are. We don't know orbital caring capacity, so we don't know how congestive the roadways are. So we over space, our assets for this mean deviation, which is quite high in all.
[00:33:55] Yeah. And we're using, tracking approaches that suck. We can't [00:34:00] see things very often smaller than 10 centimeters. People will tell you I can see things two centimeters. Yeah. For one second. Where did it go? Yeah. That's not super helpful if you saw it and then it vanished, right? So all of these things and a heck of a lot of more things that are probably not worth going into, even this level of, this will put people to sleep, but , it's terrifying.
[00:34:23] Like this is the stuff that nightmares are made of. And, I would even question when we put people up on inspiration for. We put 'em up five 50 kilometers space stations at what, four 80? Yeah. Somewhere around there. So we put the people on inspiration for 150 kilometers higher than the space station.
[00:34:42] You will get a whole lot of different answers on why, but I will tell you one of them for sure was that it is a lower risk operating environment in terms of the amount of debris. Mm That's. A little bit higher. Yep. That's a terrifying reality. Yeah. That we would even do that. So [00:35:00] there's, even when not to go into politics too much here, but when the Russians did the ASAT on cosmos 1408 in November.
[00:35:08] Yeah. We're tracking, I don't know, 1700 pieces of cosmos 1408 or what we call cosmos 1408. Some of it is the payload of the missile. And some of it's all the same. Now it's all the same. It's all just stuff. Exactly. Yeah. And if you look at that stuff which we could turn it all on. I could actually show you where all the cosmos 14, eight debris is that we're tracking and you could do that in Wayfinder as well through research.
[00:35:32] The crazy part about this is. It was an explosion in space. The stuff went, it didn't go on one set of orbits. It didn't. Yeah, it wasn't exactly it didn't start out as George CLO gravity, although the premise was the same everywhere. And how much of that can we see? Don't know, even if I knew what the total mass was of the missile that took out the satellite and the total mass of [00:36:00] 1408, which I could guess at the mass of 1408, cause that's documented dish.
[00:36:03] Sure. I couldn't tell you of the debris that we can see today. What percentage of the sum of the explosive charge? Or the missile and 1408 is in relation to what we can see. Yeah. And the rest of the stuff did not vaporize. Okay. It's up there. It's boogieman. And there's probably a million pieces that are still up there and we can't see 'em yep.
[00:36:26] Using our tracking systems. But if you got hit by it, you would be having a very bad day. Yeah.
[00:36:31] Tim Chrisman: Yeah. You're
[00:36:31] Alex Fielding: definitely noticed. So these are all things that are keeping us from. Moving forward. And then of course there's the other stuff, which is equally terrifying. And part of the reason we're doing private here is that space is becoming militarized.
[00:36:46] Yeah. And, we already know which countries and I'm not read into anything. So I will only speculate that the United States is on the same list with those other countries that have put up kinetic energy weapons or, other weapons. Yeah. [00:37:00] That's against the space act and treaty, right?
[00:37:04] So everybody signs it. So that means, we even did a project with IBM or UT Austin and morebas team did a project with IBM that we call comply. And it's a module that runs and Wayfinder. Okay. Four D plus four, zero plus percent of the things that we have in space are out of compliance with the outer space act and the international space treaty.
[00:37:25] Wow. So did we all just cross our fingers, put 'em behind our back, sign it and then go anyway. And if there's no enforcement well, who's gonna stop it. Yeah. So we are trying to just call attention to that and bring awareness so that we can look at it and be as outraged as we should be.
[00:37:42] Yeah. To start the conversation about who't enforce this space that we operate in because space has been strip mind. Oh yeah. People don't realize that when you put a communication satellite in the sky, you don't pay property tax, right? Your power's coming from solar, your operating [00:38:00] costs are sunk and then depreciated.
[00:38:02] Yep. You're not sending up technicians right now to go replace your communication satellite. So it's actually a better operating environment and a cheaper one. If you're a company than putting that same thing on the top of a hill or in the ocean. Yeah, it's easy. True. But I think the general global public, cause it's not just an American condition, it's a global condition.
[00:38:25] Sure. Are not really aware that companies are in a space rush. To own that capability. And we will be the ones that actually pay the tax. We will be the ones that actually, legitimately literally pay tax to keep the environment ultimately safe, which we don't today. Yeah. But we will also be paying the tax in the form of our internet bill and our cell phone bill, realizing that the margin for those companies are much higher operating up there than they are operating in the backyard.
[00:38:59] Tim Chrisman: It's [00:39:00] incredible.
[00:39:00] Alex Fielding: This is why I'm like, no, I'm not a fun person to have a drink with. Cause I'm just, it sounds so damn depressing now that I've just said it out loud. Wow. What are we doing? But we've gotta, we gotta make it better. And I'm, I am an optimist and I do believe that as an optimist, we screwed this up one step at a time.
[00:39:15] We can unscrew it up one step at a time.
[00:39:17] Tim Chrisman: And I think that's, a big difference between you and the other people I have drinks with that are, might be a little downer with what they're saying, you're doing something to fix it. So
[00:39:26] Alex Fielding: just baby steps. Hey, what they add up, right?
[00:39:29] Exactly. Exactly.
[00:39:31] Tim Chrisman: No. Wayfinder, once that came online was incredible. When when are you expecting to start having satellites on orbit and offering
[00:39:40] Alex Fielding: that service? It's very soon. So we're, we can't say the name of the partner yet, cuz the announcement's coming soon, but we will begin doing some hosted payloads this October, December.
[00:39:53] March. And then June we'll have our first super Ponos up, which are, they're still small satellites. But they'll, they're gonna take [00:40:00] into and incorporate the lessons learned from hosted payloads, where we flew our sensors on other people's space vehicles. Yeah. Yeah. The first of those will be up next June, but we'll have capability as early as this October that will be available to developers to play with.
[00:40:13] Yeah. And I think it's really powerful. Even some of it like space weather, you're really tracking radiation on orbit. And this impacts all of us, these solar storms and other radiation events impact everybody. So I'm excited for some of what's coming and we will be making the announcement of that plan soon.
[00:40:30] We've been. We've been doing as good a job as we can at staying under the radar on the super Pono project. But that'll be out of the bag soon and I'm excited to actually start to see how people not only respond to it. But I hope my genuine hope is that we can get to a price point.
[00:40:48] That is 10% of what it would cost you to do a hosted payload for your own sensor per year.
[00:40:57] Yeah. And that's probably 100. [00:41:00] Of what it would cost you to put up your own satellite. Yeah. So that makes it something that, if you look at it in terms of cuz cameras are easy to understand, right? Sure. Like you have a camera flying over earth, it's gonna take a bunch of pictures or video or both, and you're gonna get access to it.
[00:41:15] That means that if you were to go to a bespoke operator that tipped and cued their satellite and pointed at what they, what you wanted to see in that moment. We will be, one 10th of that cost. Yeah. So all of a sudden you get into the realm of, maybe you want a picture for God knows what reason maybe over your house every day.
[00:41:36] And you want 16 times a day. You can now have that for dollars instead of tens of thousands of dollars. Yeah. And that's a very meaningful thing because, oh yeah. There's also no negotiation required. You can just do it through API cane. You consume it. You get a small bill, you move on with life. Yeah. And that makes sense. So I'm excited about bringing that capability to market and I'm excited that, and there will be other companies that [00:42:00] will be doing what we're doing. Cause I think it just makes so much sense. There will have to be sure, space is a pretty big place and even lowered space is a, is pretty decently sized place.
[00:42:10] We probably have room for a dozen companies like private tier to operate safely and provide this capability and unlock that for humanity. Sure. And that's super meaningful. I can't wait to. Somebody's gotta watch Netflix on the way to Mars and we're gonna have exactly work on that.
[00:42:25] And and ultimately many of these things are gonna help with the other problems. They're gonna help, John doer writes this billion dollar check to Stanford for the climate school. Yep. John's brilliant. I love John. Oh yeah. If John says that he believes that climate science is the next computer science.
[00:42:43] And I am very confident. We will be hacking that from space because that's where we're doing so common research. Yeah. Oh for sure.
[00:42:50] Tim Chrisman: And there's tons of ways we can influence solutions, whether it's space based solar power, adjustable solar shades. There's tons we can do to buy [00:43:00] time and or transition polluting industries.
[00:43:03] Alex Fielding: We have to hold them to account even space. We don't have enforcement in space, but our international space act and treaties were basically based on somebody in the late 1960s with very good intention, copying and pasting our maritime Salva law, our international. Yeah. And this is created all kinds of screw ball things.
[00:43:22] There's a notion of launching states. There's a notion that are treated like shipping ports. Yep. So this whole construct is actually quite broken and enforcement is very vague. Yeah. Like very vague. There's also notions of enforcement that just don't work in real life. There's a notion of arbitration in the space act, which basically says if I do something bad or something bad happens between you and I, we will find a mutual, neutral arbiter.
[00:43:48] Yep. If that really happens, good luck finding a neutral.
[00:43:54] Tim Chrisman: Exactly.
[00:43:54] Alex Fielding: Exactly. And they're unpaid. So the other problem is there's no organization today. That's actually [00:44:00] paid to govern space. Yep. And I'm, I don't wanna be the traffic cop of space. I Nobody wants. Oh, hell no, but I do think we need somebody or an organization that has a tiny, just a sliver, right?
[00:44:14] Yeah. Just a, 1% of the cost of even the putting the payload up, which is now a very small number. Sure. If that went to an enforcement body that oh yeah, that could govern us. Yep. I think, I actually think many space operators, including the biggest of the bunch would say that seems very reasonable.
[00:44:36] Let's do it. Oh, for sure. So I'm hopeful that comes about as well. And it's just hard. We live in a capitalist world. Yeah. Enforcement is not something somebody's gonna make billions on. So I think you'll find less people rushing to the gates. So I want to be the enforcement body of space.
[00:44:51] yeah, but there's eight organizations that call themselves the international space, something, and they're not doing [00:45:00] anything other than. Doing what I'm doing right now, which is complaining about it.
[00:45:07] so it's, you it's needed and I'm genuinely hopeful that, that occurs because that, yeah, we need it. We need it really bad. Right now, there, there are a lot of people still putting up spacecraft today and they're hedging the 25 year rule in that treaty. Yep. So they're flying at orbits that naturally decay over 25 years.
[00:45:25] Yeah. That's not fair. Like you can't put up a space vehicle that has no propulsion and know it's gonna be in everybody's way for 25 years. This is like pushing your car into the middle of LA traffic and just going, yeah. That might be here in 25 years. Yep. It'll ultimately somebody will strip the car in 25.
[00:45:46] Years' take it from exactly, but that's what we're doing in space. So it's true. I just I think it's hysterical. I um, Every time that I hear somebody very sane, incredible talk about some of the problems that we're facing. Neil degra Tyson remains. One [00:46:00] of my heroes is some, oh yeah, he's great.
[00:46:01] He explains these concepts and I think this is the equivalent of Neil's explanation of we have acid rain. So we need acid, rain, proof, umbrellas, like we've got the same, this is that type of irony. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, we we need better. We need better solutions to the problem.
[00:46:19] Yeah. Let's fix the
[00:46:20] Tim Chrisman: problem, not just mitigate the
[00:46:22] Alex Fielding: effect. And that's the basis of Pono. We actually acknowledge that about 80% of what people put in space looks like if 80% of what people put in space looks like we can put 80% on our satellites and make 'em available to everyone there you. Then that doesn't solve the entire problem, but that means that the 20% who will go build their own satellites or do hosted payloads that are very bespoke, it's their stuff.
[00:46:45] It's specialized. They're still gonna do that. Sure. But it looks to be 80%. We hope won't right. You're
[00:46:51] Tim Chrisman: removing some of that. Yeah.
[00:46:53] Alex Fielding: And it's not, it's not purely greed motivated. It's actually motivated because we really do believe this is one of the [00:47:00] solutions, which. Sharing. Oh yeah.
[00:47:02] Like share. And we're opening that door to anyone else. If any existing space operators and we're asking them, yeah. Oh, you have a radio antenna looking at earth. Let's find a way to take the APIs that we're releasing to developers and make that work with your solution. Yeah.
[00:47:18] So that we can share what's already there rather than there you go. And if you have a camera there, we don't need to put a camera there. If we can share your camera. There you go. I don't, why don't we do that? So there you go. I think it's an open door. Yeah, no, that's cool. I've had way too many of these coffee things.
[00:47:36] These are fantastic.
[00:47:38] Tim Chrisman: no, it's cool. I know we're getting close to time, but I had one question I wanted to make sure I got in on the Wayfinder page. There's a clock. There's a watch. There's an omega watch. I really wanted to know, did they pay you to put that on there or do you guys just really like omega watches?
[00:47:56] Alex Fielding: it's in fairness it's a little bit of both, but omega [00:48:00] I'm a geek, right? And I'm a geek and there's a very prestigious award at NASA called silver Snoopy. Snoopy is NASA's. Character that they, that, I'm pretty sure Howard Schultz licensed Snoopy to NASA. Oh, wow.
[00:48:14] And freely, I don't think they paid for it, but Snoopy has been the character that NASA uses to embody safe space flight and the rest of the space communities adopted Snoopy for this reason. So Snoopy is very special to all of our hearts. Now this award that NASA has called the silver Snoopy award is it's given to less than 1% of NASA.
[00:48:37] So it's a very, truly prestigious award. And it's generally given for something that helps human space flight be safe or where you've saved a life, or you've impacted an actual active mission where it's yeah. Astronauts on orbit and something is happening and you need to do something. Yeah. Omega won this prestigious award.
[00:48:58] And many people don't [00:49:00] know that Neil and buzz while they were bouncing on the moon were wearing omega moon watches. And the story that is overlooked, mainly because people don't read the book and don't really know history, is that, Apollo 13, when that went wrong. Yep. And they had to shut down the systems and time their burn to get home.
[00:49:17] They turned off. The computer, the calculators, they turned off the electrons and they timed their burn using an omega moon watch of their wrist. Watch to get home safely. Oh, wow. So now don't get me wrong. It was at that point, it was a timing instrument, but it's a very precise timing instrument. It was the most precise thing they had on board.
[00:49:36] So they if they were wrong by a second, they wouldn't have made it home. Yeah. So NA that's why they won the award from NASA and many astronauts since then have been sponsored omega and as astronauts, which is great. And omega actually approached us when they heard what we were working on. We were still steal.
[00:49:54] So these guys, they have spy sense. Sure. And they said, we've been working with this company [00:50:00] and this project, and we have this line that's tied to nacton, which is mapping the underwater seas. Yeah. We think that private here is necked in for space. You guys are mapping the heavens.
[00:50:12] You're connecting that with our humanity it's and you're calling out the fact that precision is needed. Yeah. And we have these values and. We really connected with that. And we said that actually makes a heck of a lot of sense. It's not one of these worthless, we wouldn't, we likely would not have done the same deal with another brand.
[00:50:33] Sure. But the time piece that's on the Wayfinder pages, I think it's the X 33 watch. Okay. And this is this watch actually has the UTC time clock sync to it. So all of the things going on in Wayfinder actually sync to that timing, we will be using omega. As an actual timing instrument on our satellites.
[00:50:52] Oh, that's cool. So it's more, it's more than just a marketing thing. We're gonna use their precision timing equipment because they don't just make wrist washes. They actually, they're at the Olympics. [00:51:00] They do a lot of crazy stuff. Yeah. And we're using that on board. So it's actually a brilliant kind of.
[00:51:06] Partnership for us and yeah. And they be wonderful to work with, like just genuinely and it's weird too, because Morone was, and I get to be omega ambassadors. Like no one that sees my ugly ass is gonna go, I need to have an omega watch on you
[00:51:22] Tim Chrisman: and Tom Brady. Yeah, this is great. This is,
[00:51:25] Alex Fielding: yeah.
[00:51:25] And that's the sad part, right? It's like Zoe Kravitz. Daniel Craig. Tom. And then it's like the three of us yep. but, don't get me wrong. Wa deserves it. And he wears, he wears a moon watch every day with his apple watch, which is weird to have on each wrist.
[00:51:42] This is the split personality. Yeah. But it's it was already I think, entrenched in our DNA. Yeah. And and it's, I think it's beautiful.
[00:51:50] Tim Chrisman: Oh, Agreed. We we Haven evidently need to get somebody from omega on to speak at one of the later events.
[00:51:57] Alex Fielding: They did send me this Christmas candle, which was super nice.
[00:51:59] So it's ed. [00:52:00] Oh, all right. Can't get, from that magic.
[00:52:06] Tim Chrisman: Exactly. Yeah, it was it was great having you on Alex. Thank
[00:52:10] Alex Fielding: you so much. It was really fantastic, Tim. I hope you make it out to Maui. We can give you a tour of headquarters where, perfect. We're uh, we're just in the middle of, believe it or not in the middle of ki hay and south Maui, there are 20 Youngs based companies within a mile of each other.
[00:52:24] Oh my God. Wow. If you ever want an excuse to come to the south Pacific, there's also the Amus tech show, which is coming in September you're it's the 23rd year for a space sustainability conference in Maui, which oh, 23 years ago. I'm sure it was three guys on a beach. Yeah, but now it's actually a very wonderful event with a lot of brilliant people in the space community getting together to solve problems.
[00:52:47] And I hope you make it out. I'll
[00:52:48] Tim Chrisman: have to try. Yeah. Awesome. Thanks again, Alex, and take
[00:52:52] Alex Fielding: care. Oh, thank you, me too. Thanks so much, Tim. Thanks for doing this. Take care gladly cheer. Bye bye.[00:53:00]