Kawasaki Agrees to Collaborate with Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance and Mitsui & Co. to Build a Business Model for Space Debris Removal Operations

Nov. 18, 2019


Tokyo, November 18, 2019 — Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. announced today that it has agreed to work with Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd. and Mitsui & Co., Ltd. toward commercializing the removal of space debris, including deliberation on business and economic feasibility. The companies aim to create a market for space debris removal by private business entities.

Currently, space is filled with more than 20,000 pieces of orbital debris with a diameter of 10 centimeters or more, including sections of launched rockets, disused satellites and their parts. Additionally, companies looking to start an information and communication business, earth observation data services and other such business plan to launch large numbers of small satellites to form satellite constellations. This creates risk not only of collisions with the International Space Station and other satellites, but also of collisions with existing debris which in turn would create new debris. In order to ensure safe development in the space business market, it is becoming increasingly necessary to clean up space debris.

This latest cooperative effort by Kawasaki and its partners will take advantage of the strengths of each member,*1 and the parties involved will develop a scheme for creating a space debris removal market while also taking steps to achieve a necessary legislative environment, international coordination and so on. Furthermore, the companies will utilize space debris removal technologies and business models as they examine the feasibility of entry into the business of in-orbit services for satellites (refueling, repairs and improvements, removal from orbit, rescue operations, etc.), a market which is expected to surpass 3 billion dollars in scale in the next 10 years.*2

Moving forward, the three companies will work to build a business model for space debris removal operations while making active efforts to foster space business growth and safe usage of space environments.

*1    Kawasaki: Experience in the space field and knowledge on space debris removal
Kawasaki has been involved in the development and manufacturing of space equipment since the 1980s, and it is one of Japan's leading companies in the field. It began research on space debris removal technologies in 2011. In October 2019 it established a ground operations station for space debris removal satellites at its Gifu Works facility, and it hopes to commercialize its space debris removal services in fiscal 2025. By establishing a private-business model through this latest inter-company collaboration, Kawasaki hopes to further expand its business in the field.

Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance: Experience and knowledge in risk management in the space field
Ever since its foundation, Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance has developed and provided insurance and services for all types of risk with the aim of solving problems faced by society. It began providing space insurance for the space industry in the 1970s, and to this day it has continued to offer insurance products and related services for space business operators. In order to solve the society-wide problem of space debris, it plans to develop new insurance products and make contributions to improvements in the space environment.

Mitsui & Co.: Marketing and business development capabilities in the space field
Positioning the space field as a new central business focus, Mitsui & Co. has been investing in space-related companies like Spaceflight Industries, Inc., a company that offers rideshare services on launch vehicles mainly in the United States, as well as an intelligence platform that combines satellite images with artificial intelligence. Through this three-company partnership, Mitsui & Co. will consider efforts in fields such as space debris removal and in-orbit services.

*2    According to a report by Northern Sky Research LLC.


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