To better explain TCTB’s novel concept for active debris remediation (ADR or remediation), additional details about its structure and process are included below in the form of Questions and Answers. Readers are invited to respond with additional questions, challenges to answers, or comments, by sending an email to , calling at +1-832-992-1492, or sending mail to TCTB, LLC, P. O. Box 591031, Houston, TX 77259.

Question: What is TCTB, LLC?

Answer: TCTB is an acronym for “Three Country - Trusted Broker”. TCTB was initially created as a Limited Liability Company under Texas law in 2019 for the purpose of active orbital debris remediation (ADR). It is owned by Chuck Dickey, a U. S. citizen and resident of Texas. TCTB attained international status as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) recognized by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in January 2022, and is seeking recognition by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS). Additional information about TCTB, Chuck Dickey and his partners in Russia and China, is found in About.

As its name suggests, TCTB is not a technology company, but rather a private entity planning to enter into “separate but interdependent” “prime” contracts with one or more of the handful of governments who collectively are responsible for virtually all High Mass Debris in High-LEO (HMDHLEO). Alternatively, TCTB could contract with the United Nations supported by “back-funding” provided by stake-holder governments. After planning the work with participating governments, TCTB contemplates entering into competitively awarded remediation subcontracts with technology companies across the world to remediate debris. Funding for those subcontracts will be provided (and shared) by participating governments.

To facilitate contracting in China and Russia, TCTB has established local entities staffed and managed by resident persons. Valentin Uvarov, in Moscow, is TCTB’s Russian partner, and operates through a subsidiary of Success Rockets, a Russian Joint Stock Company. Guoyu Wang is TCTB’s Chinese partner, operating through Harmonize Space, a Chinese consulting company in Beijing. Operating through local entities subject to domestic jurisdiction and contracting rules is one key to enabling trust and transparency among participating governments.

Question: What is TCTB’s principal purpose?

Answer: TCTB plans to focus on a specific class of debris, namely high mass derelict (i. e., non-maneuverable) rocket bodies and spacecraft “clustered” together in relatively crowded, circular, high inclination Low Earth Orbit (LEO), also known as “High Mass Debris in High-LEO (HMDHLEO). Although there are thousands of these objects to consider, a number of recent technical studies identify and rank roughly one hundred of these objects, the removal of which would significantly reduce future potential collision risk to operating and planned satellites in LEO. TCTB’s contracting plan, which includes Target Identification in Phase 2 of its eight Phase structure, is built around these objects. TCTB’s contracting plan is described in its Proposals to the three countries, and in a subsequent Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) addressing the contracting structure.

TCTB’s remediation mission is broadly framed to include active movement of space objects, including removal from orbit and “nudging” or “Just-in-Time Collision Avoidance” (JCA). The objective of remediation is to reduce or eliminate risk.

Question: Why was TCTB formed in Texas?

Answer: As a Texas company, TCTB is subject to U. S. and local law (including treaties and international agreements binding the U. S.) including the right and obligation to sue and be sued in Texas courts. Operating from a jurisdiction under the rule of law is an advantage to all governments and contracting parties, primarily by assuring enforceability of contract obligations. To facilitate contracting in China and Russia, TCTB operates through local entities and/or presences staffed and managed by local persons, and subject to local jurisdiction. Additional information regarding enforceability and dispute resolution involving participating governments is addressed in a Frequently Asked Question related to resolution of disputes.

Question: Why use a private party to remediate debris? Can’t the affected governments agree among themselves?

Answer: Sure, but when? Seriously, in our Westphalian world, all direct interaction among sovereign governments occurs within a formal structure of international law framed by diplomacy, treaties and ratification. Moreover, to actually achieve remediation within that framework would require a simultaneous confluence of external factors (e. g., problem, politics, solution) to overcome bureaucratic equilibrium – in each affected government, at the same time! However, a multi-state “United Nations” remediation solution has proven unworkable to date; similarly, an inter-governmental organization (IGO) among three or more interested countries, like the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) or INREMSAT, might also be unable to achieve results. A fortiori, the difficulties China, Russia and the U. S. would face, in today’s polarized world, in reaching direct government-to-government remediation agreements (i. e. “Debris Accords”) through the political process cannot be overestimated.

By contrast, individual governments enter into bilateral contracts every day with domestic or foreign private parties to procure goods and services, subject only to legislative authorization and funding controls, executive prerogatives, and contracting rules (e. g., competition/sole source rules, domestic preferences and other socio-economic considerations, dispute resolution requirements, funding restrictions, payment mechanisms, and certain mandated contracting forms and contractual risk allocations). Also, under a private contracting arrangement, as opposed to direct government-to-government agreements, sovereign immunity concerns may be mitigated, enhancing enforceability expectations. This latter point is further explained in a Frequently Asked Question related to resolution of disputes.

TCTB’s “separate but interdependent” business model is built on the recognition that if all participating governments could each independently establish separate commercial contracts with the same entity, effective inter-governmental cooperation could be possible through contractually established funding controls and other contractual mechanisms, avoiding some (but not all) bureaucratic complexities and delays otherwise found in international relations among sovereign states. To be clear, TCTB contemplates acting as a tool in parallel with diplomatic relations between participating governments, facilitating cooperation while preserving national prerogatives including funding decisions. TCTB is the only company of its kind in the world established for the purpose of debris remediation, and the only entity (multi-jurisdictional NGO) uniquely able to offer the benefits described herein.

Question: Could China, Russia or the U. S., acting alone, remediate orbital debris?

Answer: Yes, but a number of factors would severely limit the effectiveness of a single government remediation program even with a private contractor acting under a contract with (and the authority of) the single country. Under international law, a single country would only be able to remediate its own debris, unless consent and relief of liability was provided by the owning/responsible country. Obtaining consent and relief of liability could be problematic for many reasons. For example, potentially proprietary, export-controlled or classified information about the debris target could be un-releasable to the remediating country; the intentions of the remediating country might be hostile to the owning country’s security interests, especially if “dual use” technology were employed in the project; and it seems unlikely and unfair to expect the remediating country to absorb the cost and risk of a remediation project involving another country’s property. Altruism is rare in sovereign relations. More significantly, purely from a mathematical probability perspective, because most of the dangerous High Mass Debris in High-LEO is Russian, any other government remediating its own objects would not provide meaningful (or efficient) risk reduction overall. International cooperation will be necessary to provide meaningful and efficient risk reduction.

Question: Should the prospect of international liability for “fault” if debris collides with other space objects motivate governments to remediate their own debris?

Answer: No. Although international law is clear that “owning” countries bear full responsibility for damage “in space” if “fault” is proven, most High Mass Debris in High-LEO was left there during the last third of the twentieth century, as a customary practice among all space-faring governments, before the commercial space race emerged. But for the recent commercial race to space, these objects might have been left to decay naturally over hundreds of years without posing significant risk, so it is historically revisionist to hold any government responsible today for past acceptable (and arguably non-negligent) conduct, simply because the risk to predominantly Western-based commercial space projects is now enhanced. More pointedly, Russia’s forced remediation today of a disproportionately larger number of objects at their own expense would disproportionately reduce future risk to other governments at no cost to them, and disproportionately benefit new commercial space projects. Approaching remediation from a “fault-based” premise is misguided. Moreover, remediation can’t be motivated by threats of litigation. A better and fairer measure for allocating the cost and risk of remediation of HMDHLEO lies in future opportunity in space, which is shared more or less equally by all seven governments responsible for HMDHLEO.

Question: How could legal, political, national security, economic and funding issues associated with direct country ADR be overcome by a three country TCTB broker contracting construct?

Answer: TCTB is not a technology company, but sovereign states acting independently through a private entity or “Trusted Broker” under commercial contracts is one key to TCTB’s business model. Indirect, non-binding, but interdependent “cooperation” among nations can be accomplished through separate national contracts with the same private party, in pursuit of a common purpose.

Overcoming Legal Impediments to ADR

Limiting targets to Chinese, Russian and U. S. debris not only ensures a target-rich environment, with country consent provided under each separate but interdependent contract, it also resolves fundamental legal issues under international law which to date have contributed to inaction. Under international law, jurisdiction (ownership) and liability considerations constrain active debris removal (ADR). Under separate prime contracts with TCTB, China, Russia and the U. S. would each consent to the removal of each other’s debris, and they would address ADR liability concerns through insurance/self-insurance/indemnity/party cross-waiver provisions in the prime contracts and flowed to the subcontracts. The project could be accomplished within the existing international space law framework. A draft Consent clause is included in the Common Contract Clauses section of the Country Area on TCTB’s website.

Mitigating Political and National Security Concerns

Acting through a “Trusted Broker” would relieve political and national security concerns embedded in the selected remediation technology or in the debris. First, it would ensure that any sensitive technology used in the remediation activity will be used only for that purpose – the so-called “dual use” problem since TCTB, as a private entity, has no territorial or sovereign objectives. For example, TCTB has no political objectives, so its competitively selected private subcontractor’s use of a grappling arm or laser in space would not threaten any country.

Secondly, regarding sensitive information embedded in the debris, non-disclosure agreements and firewalls within TCTB and the ADR subcontractors would protect sensitive information of each country from disclosure to the other countries. No classified targets are envisioned, but ADR would be possible for such targets under TCTB’s construct. Oversight of the work by TCTB insulates the countries from each other’s secrets through appropriate firewalls established and maintained inside TCTB. For example, one country might disclose sensitive information about one of its debris targets which TCTB shares with the selected subcontractor but not with the other countries who have no need to know.

Additionally, subcontractors would be required to obtain any necessary export licenses.

A clause establishing firewalls within TCTB to protect country information is included in the Common Contract Clauses section of the Country Area on TCTB’s website.

Addressing Economic and Funding Issues

Centralizing in, and ceding all remediation decisions to, one company acting in the best interests of space remediation would result in the most cleanup for the least amount of money and would provide a means to share the cost burden among the three countries. Centralizing the work in a private company facilitates cost sharing among the three countries – audit and reconciliation provisions in each country contract would insure that, and TCTB’s financial information is transparent and visible to all country participants. A draft Audit and Reconciliation clause is contained in the Common Contract Clauses section of the Country Area on TCTB’s website.

Using competition to select subcontractors is aimed at achieving the highest economic efficiency, and sharing costs among the three countries allows each of them to individually spread their portion to benefitting domestic users through taxes, fees or other mechanisms, if they choose. Moreover, ceding the selection of subcontractors to a private independent entity would assure that no single country could dictate use of a domestic subcontractor (which in turn might unravel a three-country approach without a private intermediary like TCTB), and doing so would insulate countries from bid protests by disappointed non-selected subcontractors. Notwithstanding these macro-economic benefits, participating countries would still individually be able to provide for domestic preferences by subsidizing, and thus enhancing the competitiveness of, local bidder’s proposals to TCTB for Phase 7 ADR.

Mitigating International Political Issues

Finally, working through a private non-governmental entity can streamline the ADR process by removing some of the bureaucracy inherent in direct inter-governmental relations. TCTB’s construct is intended to operate in parallel with the diplomatic process. All subcontracting decisions are made by TCTB with input and oversight from the three countries. Individual country prerogatives (sovereignty) are preserved through legislative control of participation/funding decisions, and the contractual right each country has to terminate its participation in the project at any time. (A draft Termination for Country Convenience clause is contained in the Common Contract Clauses section of the Country Area on TCTB’s website.) Under TCTB’s proposed plan, a cooperation spiral among participating countries has arisen from the efforts of the private third party.

Question: What is meant by “separate but interdependent”?

Answer: This is a key part of TCTB’s business model. Indirect, non-binding, but interdependent “cooperation” among nations can be facilitated and brought about through separate national interactions with the same private party. All three prime country contracts contain eight Phases breaking the work into “bite-sized” pieces. Each contract will also contain common provisions addressing consent for remediation of that country’s debris by TCTB, funding interdependency and periodic reconciliation (for effective sharing of costs), the right to terminate for convenience at any time, equitable allocation of risk and other similarities related to facilitating the common purpose of ADR, but will otherwise be based upon the particular country’s standard procurement contracts. This effectively allows coordinated action, but also preserves the right to act (or not act) unilaterally. The first six Phases leading up to ADR are essentially only reimbursing TCTB’s minimal costs involved in planning the work, so each country could continue or not, without putting much at risk. Trust among countries may also grow during Phase 1-6 cooperation - a key facet of TCTB’s “Trusted Broker” formula. Any large dollar value subcontracts issued by TCTB to industry for ADR work under Phase 7 will be dependent upon funding provided to TCTB under the country prime contracts.

Draft clauses accomplishing the objectives outlined above are contained in the Common Contract Clauses section of the Country Area on TCTB’s website.

Question: Explain the contracting structure proposed by TCTB.

Answer: TCTB proposes to enter into three equivalent but not necessarily identical cost reimbursement fixed fee contracts, one with each country. Each contract would be based on standard commercial contracts used by each country for the purpose. For example, if NASA were determined to be the U. S. contracting party (funding for ADR research already exists within that agency), the agency could employ a Space Act agreement, or a FAR-based procurement contract, with TCTB.

Each contract is divided into eight separate Phases of work. Phases 1 through 6 involve planning for ADR, including negotiating the “prime” contracts between TCTB and each country (Phase 1), developing a list of targets for ADR (Phase 2), developing competitive Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and subcontracting forms for industry (Phases 3 and 4), conducting an international competition (Phase 5), and negotiating subcontracts between TCTB and selected ADR subcontractors (Phase 6). Phase 7 involves ADR performance, which would be accomplished through subcontracts issued by TCTB to industry. The subcontracts will be dependent upon funding provided to TCTB under the country prime contracts. Phase 8 covers adjacencies and other projects that become possible as ADR unfolds. Contract Phases 1-8 are portrayed in the Table below.

Table 1

Description Statement of Work Duration
Phase 1 - Prime Contract “Definitization” Negotiation of the prime contracts between TCTB and each country. Deliverables include all prime contract documents. 3 months
Phase 2 - Target Identification Development and ranking of initial ADR targets. Either a technical “dream team” or a country by country “nomination” process is contemplated. Deliverables include the Initial Target Ranking Document. 6 months
Phase 3 - RFP Development Development of a Request for Proposal (RFP) for industry seeking proposals for ADR for one or more targets identified in the Initial Target Ranking Document. Deliverables include a Draft RFP. 6 months
Phase 4 - Subcontract Development Development of the terms of the ADR subcontract. Deliverables include a Draft Model Subcontract which will be included in the industry RFP. 6 months
Phase 5 - Subcontract Competition Issuing an RFP and conducting a competition among prospective subcontractors for ADR of initial targets. Deliverables include evaluation and preliminary selection of an awardee. 6 months
Phase 6 - Subcontract Award Negotiation and execution of a subcontract between TCTB and the awardee. Deliverables include a signed subcontract between TCTB and the awardee. 6 months
Phase 7 - ADR Management of the initial awarded ADR subcontract. Deliverables include periodic Progress Reports. 1 year or more
Phase 8 - Next Steps Follow-on ADR projects and other special projects. Variable - TBD

Each country prime contract will be funded in Phases, and will contain “off-ramps” for each country through termination for convenience provisions.

Question: Explain the subcontracting structure for Phase 7 ADR.

Answer: Using the products developed by TCTB and participating countries in Phases 2-6, including target identification, developing an RFP and subcontracts for ADR, conducting an international competition, and awarding subcontracts for ADR, Phase 7 will involve performance of the ADR subcontracts by the selected awardees. TCTB will manage these subcontracts, with the assistance of the country prime contractors. The subcontracts are expected to be firm fixed price; TCTB’s costs to manage the work will be reimbursed by the participating countries under their prime contracts. The subcontracts will be contingent upon country provided funding to TCTB under the country prime contracts. Privity of contract principles will limit the availability of legal remedies by the subcontractors or prospective subcontractors against the three countries. The prime contract and subcontract relationships are portrayed in the figure below.

Prime and Subcontract Relationships

Question: Explain Phase 8 addressing ADR adjacencies.

Answer: Phase 8 includes open-ended tasks including civil or commercial “adjacency” projects. Once ADR has begun, numerous opportunities for other projects for a variety of customers, both commercial and government, are possible. These projects, between TCTB and the selected ADR subcontractor, would be subject to country approval to the extent they impacted the Phase 7 ADR missions. To the extent that countries have provided funding or resources for ADR which benefitted or facilitated the adjacent project, they would be compensated accordingly through negotiations under the affected prime country contract with TCTB. For example, a satellite operator might approach TCTB or its subcontractor about repairing a satellite during an ADR project. The resulting servicing contract between TCTB, its ADR subcontractor, and the satellite operator, if approved by the countries, could provide a share of the ADR-related savings to the three countries.

Question: Describe the Common Contract Clauses each country prime contract will contain.

Answer: A draft of each of the common clauses TCTB proposes to include in each country prime contract can be found on TCTB’s website under the section entitled “Country Contracts: Common Contract Clauses”. They address consent, non-disclosure obligations and firewalls, risk allocation (e. g., indemnity, insurance/self-insurance, party cross waivers, ADR subcontract flow down), prime contract interdependence, termination for convenience, cost sharing, audit rights, common purpose/interpretation declarations, conforming remedies and disputes resolution.

Question: How would disputes among parties involved in the project, or with third parties related to the project, be resolved?

Answer: The possibility exists that disputes may arise between TCTB and one or more countries; between countries; between TCTB and its subcontractors; between TCTB’s subcontractor and countries; or between injured third parties and TCTB, subcontractors or countries. Developing a fair, effective, enforceable dispute resolution mechanism among all parties for all project related disputes will be a challenge in light of sovereign immunity and political considerations. If the parties cannot amicably resolve any dispute among themselves, and cannot agree to allow a neutral third party to decide, the project may be over, but that is no different than the situation that exists today for any multi-party project.

Party liability for third person injury or property damage will be addressed under the umbrella of international and national law through contractual risk allocations among parties including insurance and indemnity. To avoid U. S. responsibility for a third-party claim against TCTB arising out of ADR actions, since under international law a country supervising the activity is responsible for the actions of private actors under its jurisdiction, all three countries would agree in their respective country contracts with TCTB to share responsibility for project liability to third parties.

In general, privity of contract considerations will prevent claims between TCTB’s subcontractor and country parties. For all remaining inter-party project-related disputes between TCTB and one or more countries, TCTB is proposing to establish a mechanism in each prime country contract requiring negotiation among designated officials to resolution or impasse, followed by submission to a third-party neutral decider (e. g., International Court of Justice, Permanent Court of Arbitration, London Court of Arbitration). (An alternative to a third-party decider would be to establish a three-country plus TCTB designated official structure with a rotating chairman (deciding vote) to resolve any impasse.) A Disputes Resolution clause in each prime country contract would address venue, choice of law, language, procedure, appealability, enforceability (e. g., New York Convention), project continuance during the pendency of any dispute, and other related matters. TCTB is also willing to submit to local jurisdiction and venue for resolution of any dispute between itself and a single country, subject to a Conforming Remedies clause designed to both insure against the possibility of two separate but conflicting remedies for any dispute affecting the interests of the other countries, and to make clear that disputes should be resolved in the best interests of the overall project purpose. Note that, despite each country’s agreement to submit to a binding disputes resolution process, partial sovereign immunity would be preserved in principle for each country through a termination for convenience clause in each prime contract that would allow each country to end its participation in the project at any time subject only to payment of TCTB’s incurred costs.

Although not directly pertinent to developing a workable disputes resolution mechanism, another advantage of using a private party to accomplish ADR is the fact that it is generally easier to resolve disputes among countries through contractual agreements as opposed to multi-national or bilateral political agreements. Enforceability is also improved when a private party is acting to accomplish the project. For example, firewalls and cybersecurity protections put in place by TCTB to protect sensitive information of any party used in performance of the work benefit by being fully enforceable. Sovereign immunity issues are not eliminated but they are lessened by using a private entity to accomplish mutual goals.

A draft Conforming Remedies clause, a draft Disputes Resolution clause, and a draft Termination for Country Convenience clause may be found on TCTB’s website under the section entitled “Country Contracts: Common Contract Clauses”.

Question: How could the U. S. government, or another country, issue a sole source contract to TCTB without competing the requirement or imposing domestic preferences?

Answer: All three countries permit contracts with non-domestic companies; all three countries protect proprietary information received from others; all three countries permit sole source contracts. For example, under U. S. federal contracting rules, sole source contracts may be issued in lieu of competition where there is only one responsible source, or where a unique, innovative and proprietary concept, such as TCTB’s Proposal, is offered.

To facilitate contracting in China and Russia, TCTB contemplates establishing local entities and/or presences staffed and managed by local persons.

Regarding subcontracts, while TCTB, as a private party, is generally not bound to use local companies from the prime contracting party’s country, neither is the country itself required to do so except for certain classes of country contracts involving military technology or to subsidize local industry. Having said that, under TCTB’s contracting structure, the countries and TCTB will together develop a subcontracting selection plan in Phases 3-5 of TCTB’s eight Phase contracting plan that, although fundamentally based on a “best value” procurement philosophy for selection of Phase 7 subcontractors, might also include local preferences regarding certain aspects, for example regarding selection of launch service providers. Individual countries might also decide of their own accord to subsidize local competitors’ bids to TCTB in order to enhance their competitiveness. TCTB’s contracting and subcontracting plans are further described in Questions & Answers regarding those topics. TCTB’s Proposal, in non-proprietary form, may be found at TCTB’s website in Key Documents.

Question: Despite the benefits provided by a three country public-private model, what if single countries decided to proceed alone to remediate their own debris, in part desiring to favor in-country ADR contractors. How could TCTB facilitate that?

Answer: Using TCTB as a broker to assist in target identification and selection of a domestic remediator, while not as efficient as an overall three country approach, could still achieve localized ADR. However, there is no incentive for any one country to remediate their own debris if other countries are not also remediating their own. Viewed from this perspective, assuming all three countries were to embark on separate national ADR programs, a mechanism would still be needed to coordinate each country’s effort to insure it was proportionally matched by the other countries. TCTB could perform that limited role, allowing each country’s separate effort to be monitored for transparency and equivalency. However, single country programs would not alleviate any “dual-use” or national security concerns, and economic efficiency would not be best served by three separate programs with separate launches focusing solely on three separate, limited sets of targets. Both target studies and emerging ADR technologies address a wider set of opportunities, so new studies and new technology would be required to support single country programs. Too, it is likely that industry from each of the three countries will receive a fair share of the work under a three country plan - Phases 2-6 of TCTB’s contracting model were specifically designed with that in mind. Most significantly, while possible, single country programs, whether facilitated by TCTB or not, would not contribute to international harmony, security and order, would be an inefficient response to a problem requiring massive resources to address, and might even further destabilize the existing political order in space to the world’s detriment, despite the cooperative and optimistic tones struck by existing international space law. Frankly, if ADR is not worthy of international cooperation, there is not much hope for civilization in space.

Question: How would costs be shared among participating countries?

Answer: Each contracting country would agree to pay an equitable share of TCTB’s costs of preparing for and accomplishing ADR (envisioned as pro rata equal shares, but this could vary based on a number of negotiated factors).

TCTB is working with economists to develop a formula for each participating country’s share of Phase 7 ADR costs. The formula is based on each country’s share of future (lost) opportunities in space due to future (avoided) debris collisions. Stated another way, cost sharing should mirror each country’s future space opportunities which are enabled by timely ADR which benefits all countries, instead of focusing on “fault” based criteria for leaving debris in space (a common international practice, and thus arguably free from fault).

Each country prime contract with TCTB will contain an Audit and Reconciliation clause. TCTB’s costs are transparent to all participating countries, and fully auditable. The reconciliation portion of the clause will include a “lookback” feature where later joining countries will be able to share in earlier Phase costs and fees, if desired.

TCTB’s total estimated costs for Phases 1-6 preceding and laying the groundwork for Phase 7 ADR is $1.2m, anticipated to be spread among three countries over a 33-month performance period. TCTB’s costs would include translators, meetings, travel, insurance, accounting services and other directly related costs. Phase 7 costs will include ADR subcontract prices and TCTB management costs and fees. The costs of any support or “seconded” personnel supplied by each country would be borne separately by each providing country (non-auditable and not shared). A draft Audit and Reconciliation clause may be found on TCTB’s website under the section entitled “Country Contracts: Common Contract Clauses”.

Question: Is remediation affordable?

Answer: Equitably sharing the admittedly high cost and risk of remediation missions among seven governments over the several years it would take makes remediation of HMDHLEO more affordable. For example, assuming a $5B price tag to remove the 100 most dangerous objects in 10 missions (10 objects per mission, $.5B per mission) over ten years would amount to roughly $70m per year per government, if cost and risk were shared equally among all seven. Some governments might choose to provide in-kind sharing (e. g., launch costs, salvage opportunities) and/or financial support to domestic remediation competitors. Cooperation enables efficiency, affordability and greater opportunity. Moreover, once begun, remediation would yield recurring cost savings through repetition, and enable adjacent markets.

Question: How much fee or profit can TCTB earn?

Answer: There are three potential ways for TCTB to cover the risk it assumes (and time it spends) on the project.

The first fee earnable by TCTB (base fee) is based on a percentage of estimated costs. For example, Phase 2, Target Identification, requires TCTB to work with one or more of the country-contracting parties to identify a ranking priorities list of debris targets for inclusion in the competitive RFP to industry. TCTB’s very conservative estimate to complete that task is $300,000 over 6 months, consisting of TCTB (not country) costs of meetings, travel, non-country expert retention, accounting support, information protection and miscellaneous expenses. TCTB’s fixed fee for Phase 2 is 6%, or $18,000, which, if all three countries participate in Phase 2, will be shared ($6,000 each) among the countries. If costs exceed the estimate, the fixed fee will not increase. If only one country participated in Phase 2, that country would pay the entire $18,000 fixed fee, subject to possible reconciliation and country sharing after-the-fact. Total TCTB fees for phases 1-6 are $72,000. Phases 1-6 are expected to take more than three years to complete. If all three countries participate in Phases 1-6, the estimated cost of that effort is $1,200,000. Thus, if all three countries participated in Phases 1-6, they would each incur $400,000 in costs, plus their own expenses in participating, and each would pay $24,000 in fee.

The details regarding the remainder of TCTB’s proposed fee structure are contained in proprietary versions of its Proposal. Further details may be provided upon request.

Question: How is country sensitive or classified information protected so that one country will not have access to another country’s secrets?

Answer: Protecting sensitive or classified country information through establishment of firewalls is a key element of TCTB’s business plan. It allows the three countries to act together while preserving their national security and political objectives. Firewalls will help to overcome obstacles to coordinated country cooperation. The same protection could not be as easily achieved if the three countries were to act directly together without an intermediary. For example, using a private party, even one aware of a country’s secrets, avoids sharing the same secrets with another country. Data necessary for performance is provided to the private party, but not further. No country has to share their sensitive technology with another country – only with TCTB and its subcontractors as necessary for the mission, and protected by firewalls. Firewalls are often employed by companies in antitrust scenarios (e. g., Consent Decrees) as a means of obtaining regulatory consent for a particular business combination while preserving competition. The U. S. Missile Defense Agency and industry have also used firewalls to create national teams of industry competitors to jointly develop important missile defense systems.

TCTB will assure protection through separate locked storage, computer encryption and access controls for sensitive information. If classified information is required for targeting purposes, it will be shared with the ADR subcontractor (who will be under similar use and disclosure restrictions) but not with the other countries. Persons seconded from each country to support the project will be bound by personal firewalls while acting inside TCTB, and will not have access to certain information. Each country will be able to negotiate and control access to its information in more detail once operations begin. A draft Protection of Information clause may be found on TCTB’s website under the section entitled “Country Contracts: Common Contract Clauses”.

Question: How is competition fostered by TCTB’s business plan?

Answer: Using an independent, private third party instead of a direct country procurement for ADR avoids imposition of domestic preferences on contracting. A private party can canvas the world for bidders and make the best selection for economic efficiency. Moreover, countries are insulated from bid protests since a private party is making the selection of ADR subcontractors.

Question: Why would ADR companies support TCTB's plan?

Answer: Many companies, for example Astroscale, but also including companies like Launchspace Technologies Corporation (LTC), Star Technology and Research, Inc., and Tether Applications, Inc. to name just a few, or any of the other established and start-up companies who have developed satellite servicing or other technologies that could be used for ADR, have developed business models seeking contracts for ADR remediation. Venture capital funds have contributed to many of these plans, and technology tests have either been accomplished or are planned in the near future. Finding paying customers has been challenging because the benefits flowing to commercial customers from ADR are generally diffuse. Accordingly, “alternative” business cases have been developed which rely on turning ADR into an “adjacent” market, focusing first on satellite servicing for commercial customers, whereas the true customers for ADR are the three countries who have the most to lose and to gain from a catastrophic collisional cascade, as well as funding for that purpose. By focusing on the three countries who “own” the debris, TCTB’s business model directly confronts the risk and opportunity of ADR. Adjacent markets arise from ADR, not the reverse. TCTB does not compete with ADR technology companies; to the contrary, it enables them by creating a market and funding which does not now exist.

Moreover, in any new or existing market, competition among technology solutions contributes to overall economic efficiency. TCTB’s model would enable competition among ADR providers. As further described in its Proposals, once targets have been identified during Phase 2 of TCTB’s three country contracting plan, TCTB would develop subcontracts and conduct competitions for ADR in Phases 3 through 6, leading to performance of ADR contracts in Phase 7.

Question: Is there any precedent for TCTB’s business model?

Answer: A close analogy is found in the Red Cross, which was originally formed in the U. S. by Clara Barton, a private citizen, and then later it became an “instrumentality” of the U. S. government. International Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations were formed in other countries based on a similar model. Today the Red Cross is funded largely by private donations. Collectively, these organizations were formed to support the universally recognized value of humanitarian aid – the symbol, a red cross or red crescent, says “Don’t shoot!” in any language.

Another analogy closer to home can be found in the public-private relationships that exist to employ space science to improve the human condition on earth. NanoRacks, a profit-making organization, and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, a non-profit, non-governmental organization, now operate a portion of the International Space Station designated by the U. S. Congress as a national lab, under agreements with NASA.

Garbage collection on Earth is predominantly a municipal function, and the most obvious analogy to ADR. While adjacent recycling businesses (i. e., using garbage for another purpose) have sprung up from garbage collection, adjacent markets depend on a smaller, unique subset of customers. If one further considers that space is not the territory of any one nation, then it makes perfect sense that the three countries who created the garbage, and who continue to use space extensively, should share the cost of ADR.

ADR, like humanitarian medical care and space science, would benefit mankind both on earth and in space, yet it has proved to be unattainable by governments or their instrumentalities (i. e., Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee), for legal, political, national security, economic and funding reasons. TCTB, as a private entity under contracts to the three governments responsible for virtually all orbital debris, could reach the “unreachable star”.

Question: What is TCTB’s business philosophy and contemplated operating structure?

Answer: TCTB intends to conserve country funds and use them as much as possible for ADR activities. To that end, TCTB anticipates supplementing many of its functions through “seconded” country personnel during planning Phases 1-6, but even without such country support, acting as an intermediary would require a very small staff. TCTB staffing during Phases 1-6, whether filled through inside or outside support, might vary by Phase depending on need. TCTB staffing during Phases 7-8 might increase, depending on the level of risk assumed by TCTB in those Phases.

Further, to facilitate contracting in China and Russia, TCTB contemplates establishing local entities and/or presences staffed and managed by local persons.

With that philosophy in mind, TCTB envisions central leadership initially through a CEO with support from a CFO. Technical coordination among countries would be facilitated by a COO. Functional organizations could include Contracts, Subcontracting, Information Security, Risk Management, Legal, Human Resources and Business Development. The need for these functions would vary by Phase and could be accomplished by outside providers. The role envisioned for each of these functions is described in the Table below.

Table 2

Function Responsibility Source, Phase
CEO Leads overall TCTB activity across all functions and interfaces. TCTB in-house, all Phases
CFO TCTB financial controls, country cost sharing and reconciliation mechanisms. TCTB in-house or outside provider, all Phases
COO Technical content for all country contracts and subcontracts. TCTB in-house, Phases 2-8
Contracts Administration of TCTB contracts with countries, administers country contract changes. TCTB in-house or outside provider, Phases 3-8
Subcontracts ADR subcontractor selection process and subcontract terms, manages subcontract performance, assures export compliance. TCTB in-house or outside provider, Phases 3-8
Information Security Establishes and manages firewalls between countries, protects country data inside TCTB, protects proprietary subcontractor data. TCTB in-house, Phases 2-8
Risk Management Works with countries, subcontractors and insurers to develop comprehensive allocation of all risks among parties and as to third parties. TCTB in-house or outside provider, Phases 3-8
Legal Addresses legal risks faced by countries or TCTB, as needed. TCTB in-house or outside provider, Phases 3-8
Human Resources Manages TCTB policies and practices regarding employment, could be outside support function. TCTB in-house or outside provider, Phases t/b/d
Business Development Leads Phase 8 interaction with countries, subcontractors and other companies as needed to address adjacent business opportunities. TCTB in-house or outside provider, Phases 7-8
Local Country Presence To facilitate contracting in China and Russia, TCTB contemplates establishing local entities and/or presences staffed and managed by local persons. Local presence, all Phases

Question: How is bureaucracy reduced by using TCTB?

Answer: Since decision making is ceded to a private party, albeit with single-country veto control retained via funding decisions (turning off funding ends that country’s participation), the timelines and political factors associated with country actions are all either reduced or eliminated. Political coordination among all three countries does not appear necessary under TCTB’s plan, but given the wide-ranging, multi-forum nature of political interaction among countries, it cannot be discounted entirely. Even so, while some coordination among three governments (not fifteen like the IADC) may still occur, decision making is streamlined within one private party subject to oversight and control of funding by the three governments. If any country doesn’t like what it sees unfolding, it can stop at any time and walk away with no liability beyond what it had before starting, using the Termination for Country Convenience clause contained in each country contract.

Question: Can the political processes within each country be entirely eliminated through implementation of TCTB’s ADR solution?

Answer: Not entirely, since some political controls are embedded in the contracting process. Today, no further legislative action would be required in the U. S. to provide funds for ADR research (that authority already exists inside NASA and those funds could be used to contract with TCTB for Phases 1-6), but further U. S. Executive and Legislative branch endorsements would be needed to authorize and fund Phase 7 ADR, as well as determining which agency would be given that money. That decision would be made by the National Space Council and the U. S. Congress. Similar authorizations would be necessary in China and Russia.

The U. S. government would also have to decide if the Wolf Amendment, which prohibits direct, bilateral, government-to-government interaction between NASA and China, would restrict its indirect interaction with China (and Russia) through TCTB. Additional legislative action might be needed depending on how each country perceives its relationship with the others under the proposed arrangement.

At a lower level of “politics”, an exception to the U. S. Competition in Contracting Act’s (CICA) competition requirement would require agency head approval to issue a contract to TCTB on a sole source basis, but TCTB has presented a novel proposal which would allow a sole source exception or waiver to be granted. Alternatively, NASA currently has authority to enter into a Space Act agreement with TCTB without obtaining a waiver under the CICA, since “Other Transaction Authority” (OTA) under the NASA Act is exempt from CICA.

While these political processes play out in each country, TCTB could begin planning for ADR under a single country contract or contracts, with little money or risk to the pathfinder country, until Phase 7 ADR.

Question: Are there other benefits to using private industry to accomplish ADR?

Answer: Employing private industry to achieve ADR makes good business sense, starting with the managing contractor.

TCTB has stated in its Proposal that if it can design the competitive Phase 7 ADR RFPs broadly enough, with the help of the three country stakeholders, it will encourage innovation, and even spur the growth of new industry. Phase 8 of TCTB’s contracting structure also provides an excellent opportunity to stimulate world-wide commercial activity in adjacent, nascent markets. Using a commercial company instead of a government platform avoids encumbrances from domestic preferences and other government contracting rules designed to protect national objectives at the expense of commercial interests. Phase 7 and 8 opportunities will be enhanced by using a private entity to seek the widest range of commercial opportunities.

Relatedly, as previously addressed in an earlier Question & Answer, a private party has no sovereign objectives and thus poses no threat to the security of any nation whose assets are subject to ADR operations like rendezvous and proximity operations and on-orbit servicing.

Finally, using a private party for ADR will encourage transparency in space situational awareness (SSA). SSA transparency is an emerging initiative which will be key to preserving and enhancing the future of commercial space activity and ADR.

Question: So why should the three countries do this? Is it really as simple as signing a contract?

Answer: Acknowledging that each country has to independently review and decide on the proposals through their respective diplomatic and procurement channels, as TCTB stated in its Proposal to each country, “China, Russia and the U. S. are responsible for virtually all the debris in space, and they own or rely on more space-based assets than any other country, for political, national defense and commercial purposes. They have the most future opportunity to gain by cooperation, as well as the most to lose by failing to avert the impending cascade. By using TCTB to clean up orbital debris, they could establish a powerful precedent for cooperation in space for the benefit of all mankind, without compromising any of their respective national interests. But even if only one country decided to proceed, and even if only for the initial phases of target identification and RFP issuance, it could validate the business case that TCTB believes exists today for ADR, and it would be a bold leadership step in the right direction.”

In space, more so than in terrestrial matters because of the relative lack of binding written space law, international conduct results in space law precedent. Establishing a cooperation spiral, and a strong precedent for cooperation in space, TCTB is a bridge over troubled waters. Waiting for a confluence of interest, economic miracle, or until an accident happens, is the worst answer and horribly bad public policy. TCTB’s “Three Country Trusted Broker” construct and contractual approach allows the three countries most responsible for orbital debris to manage and mitigate that liability. TCTB is a tool all three (and perhaps other) countries can use to lead the world in space.

Question: How can China, Russia and the U. S. cooperate when they are adversaries across so many fronts?

Answer: Cooperation among rivals is not unprecedented. Chinese, Russian and U. S. businesses routinely invest in each other’s country. For example, China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd. has invested in Moon Express, one of the companies chosen by NASA for its Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. Tencent also invested in Planetary Resources (now acquired by ConsenSys, Inc.) and Satelogic, an Argentinian company specializing in satellite imagery. NanoRacks, a private U. S. space company, established a commercial partnership with Kuang-Chi Science Ltd. in 2018. Russia participates in the International Space Station along with several other countries, and provides rocket engines to U. S. companies. Private commercial international economic relations cut across country boundaries and bind the world together through mutually beneficial interactions.

China, Russia and the U. S. each seek to influence others through international business activities. The Marshall Plan, China’s Belt and Road initiative, and Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership, are examples where the three countries have sought to lead through international engagement.

Economic cooperation can be a powerful tool to avoid war, as well as an instrument of leadership. What better objective than insuring space sustainability through ADR, using TCTB to facilitate cooperation among rivals and leading the world in space!

Question: Why should the three countries trust TCTB?

Answer: Each country routinely awards contracts for a wide range of goods and services to private international providers, and has developed contracts and other mechanisms to manage those relationships. TCTB offers to operate under three separate contracts using each country’s respective contracting forms, further submitting to local jurisdiction for resolution of any disputes.

TCTB has decades of experience with space law, government contracts, international business, competition, industry, firewalls and data protection, export control, classified data protection, and working in a collaborative, competitive environment. TCTB knows what will work from a business perspective. Ethical behavior is embodied in TCTB’s name and its owner’s history and reputation in the space industry. As a U. S. entity and U. S. owned, TCTB is subject to U. S. laws which ensure strong data protection rules, and effective, fair disputes resolution forums and laws. Notwithstanding that heritage, enforceable contracts will ensure TCTB’s performance. There are technical and financial checks and balances built in to the structure on both the prime and subcontract sides of the equation to ensure TCTB makes responsible decisions.

Trust will also be nurtured through the “seconding” process, where countries may provide knowledgeable experts to TCTB to facilitate the project. Too, as each phase proceeds and the stakes increase, mutual confidence will grow - gated Phase by Phase funding and the right to terminate for convenience at any time for any reason are designed partly to ensure that. TCTB’s logo and trademark, “Three Country - Trusted Broker”, really says it all.

Finally, to facilitate contracting in China and Russia, TCTB contemplates establishing local entities and/or presences staffed and managed by local persons.

Question: What are TCTB’s capital needs?

Answer: Modest, a reflection of TCTB’s unique role, size, and structure. The participating countries are, in effect, TCTB’s venture capital partners. They each provide funding for project Phases, with defined deliverables. The payoff for their investments comes in reducing their own liability for future space “accidents”, equitably sharing that liability with the other responsible parties, insuring their future prospects to use space for a multitude of purposes, and enhancing their status as world leaders in space, not to mention the commercial activity each country could generate through subcontracts and adjacent opportunities both independent of, or through, TCTB. Most of these real benefits would not motivate a private venture capitalist interested solely in measurable financial returns on investment. TCTB’s costs are much less than if each country were to stand up and fund a separate bureaucracy or inter-governmental organization to manage ADR. Having said the foregoing, depending on the risk TCTB agrees to assume in Phases 7 and 8, venture capital might be needed by TCTB during those project Phases.

Question: Do we know enough about the debris in space and where it is, to remediate now?

Answer: A number of public and private activities are underway or planned to improve space situational awareness (SSA) of orbital debris, for space traffic management (STM) and other purposes. However, SSA and STM cannot prevent future collisions among non-maneuverable high mass objects in LEO. Too, a number of recent collision probability studies have identified objects for ADR, and more are planned. These studies generally focus on the same relatively small subset of high mass debris objects in LEO, which number under 100. There are two approaches today for ADR: removal of objects from orbit by orbital lowering to an altitude from which decay will ensue within a reasonable time, and “nudging” objects to avoid collisions, known as “Just-in-time Collision Avoidance” (JCA).

Better knowledge of the estimated 500,000 (and growing) pieces of debris of all sizes is an important part of ADR. However, just because we don’t know enough now about all the debris in space, doesn’t mean the next high mass on high mass collision in LEO will kindly wait until we do. We do know that most of the high mass debris in LEO is under the jurisdiction and responsibility of China, Russia or the U. S., plus a few others, and that the legal, political and economic reasons for ADR don’t depend on characterization of the debris.

TCTB’s proposal proceeds in Phases, beginning with studies to understand the existing debris field from an ADR perspective – pre-ADR phases are expected to take more than three years to complete. Laying a foundation for Phase 7 ADR should begin now.

Question: What if another country wanted to join?

Answer: Under TCTB’s “Three Country Trusted Broker” construct, other countries may join, with the consent of the three founding countries, by signing a fourth equivalent prime contract with TCTB. Cost sharing and other interdependencies among the contracts could apply to four or more countries as easily as with three. Adding countries under a commercial construct would be considerably easier than through a diplomatic treaty-based direct country-to-country approach. Adding debris targets under the jurisdiction of other countries is also possible in later project Phases, further defraying costs and expanding the scope of international country participation. Likely first candidates include the European Union/European Space Agency, Japan and India, based on their existing levels of debris and their expected share of future space use.

Question: Where can I learn more about TCTB?

Answer: TCTB has established a website, threecountrytrustedbroker.com, where additional information is contained regarding TCTB, its business plan, the ADR legal, political and technical environment, and other relevant material. The website is also designed to be interactive – both as a tool to educate others as well as to better improve TCTB’s offering through world-wide comments/blogs and other dialogue with interested parties. Separate access-controlled areas within the website provide protected access for country participants and subcontractors/bidders.

Question: What is the status of TCTB’s proposal?

Answer: TCTB submitted proposals to China, Russia and the U. S. on May 24, 2109. Non-proprietary versions of those proposals can be found on TCTB’s website, threecountrytrustedbroker.com, in Key Documents. Proprietary versions are maintained under an access-controlled section of the website.