5 Takeaways from Mark Dankberg’s Fireside Chat at Financial Times’s “Investing in Space” Summit

Viasat CEO and Chairman, Mark Dankberg, joined Financial Times correspondent, Anna Gross, to discuss key issues that impact the space market.

Mark Dankberg Financial Times Investing in Space Summit

Mark Dankberg with Financial Times correspondent, Anna Gross, discussing the space industry

True to the theme of this year’s Investing in Space Summit, “Balancing optimism with realism,” Mark Dankberg shared his candid perspective on the issues facing the industry –from equitable access to space, meeting the demand for global broadband and Viasat’s position to become a leader in growing markets.

The acquisition of Inmarsat will support the demand for a growing global mobile market

Dankberg emphasized that Viasat’s acquisition of Inmarsat means that the company can bring a more scalable business to our customers and investors. It’s something that’s both good strategically and economically. The global mobile marketplace is expected to grow substantially and continue to have a lot of competition and the company has the scale to meet that demand.

Dankberg believes that there are still many areas that have high demand for broadband, many of which have never really had access to real broadband before. Viasat already has a leading position in the aeronautical, maritime, business aviation, commercial aviation, land and mobile sectors and there is still so much more opportunity to grow those businesses.

Meeting customer demand for bandwidth benefits from orbit augmentation solutions

With so much focus on low-Earth orbit (LEO) communication satellites compared to geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites, Dankberg emphasized that they aren’t technology solutions, but still just orbits that define where your communication payloads are located. The key to broadband data is frequency reuse, which requires a lot of beams, computation, and investment. With some of the most advanced payloads in both orbits, Viasat is well positioned to provide more beams to more customers where they need it most.

The benefit of having payloads in both orbits, is that LEO can augment GEO where lower latency is desired, while payloads in GEO can point bandwidth at the locations that have the most demand. That’s where Dankberg believes you can get the most “bang for your buck.”

Investing in space is an investment in national security

Since satellites are mission-critical for defense, cyber-attacks come with the territory. Cyber-attacks are a low-cost way for adversaries to disrupt or disable important military or commercial assets. It’s also not always obvious where the attack came from either. It’s a multi-layer problem that Viasat is invested in solving.

Orbit overload impacts space debris and equitable access

According to Dankberg, if you look at the math, the dominant issue to ensure equitable access to space, as well as reduction of space debris, is to not overload space in the first place.

This current overloading of LEO orbits, with large numbers of increasingly massive satellites, is causing policymakers to look for solutions to ensure the efficient use of space so there is room for new and innovative applications of space, and opportunities for participation by a wide range of actors around the world, for generations to come.

Ensuring equitable access to space is more than pursuing launch regulation

The industry is very much focused on launch regulations as an answer to addressing access to space and Dankberg shares a different perspective. One of the issues is that certain countries are better positioned to dominate space and consume all the limited and shared resources.

According to Dankberg, it’s not environmentally sound and it’s anti-competitive. So instead, he suggests focusing on market access decisions to ensure sustainable use of and access to space. Specifically ,countries could make market access decisions based on carry capacity, to ensure a system that stays within certain parameters for their regions. For example, if somebody’s using 90% of all the carrying capacity at all the altitudes from 350 to 600 kilometers, that might be too much. Taking consumption of orbital resources into account in market access decisions would help ensure equitable access to space and would promote more efficient use of space.

To watch the full fireside chat, register for Financial Times “Investing in Space” summit’s on-demand video platform.