in Space

Astroscale awarded UK Space Agency Study for removing two satellites from space

Posted 26 October 2021 · Add Comment

Harwell based Astroscale Ltd., has been selected for a UK Space Agency Study to remove two unprepared spacecraft in low Earth orbit.

Image courtesy Astroscale

The Active Debris Removal Phase 0-A Feasibility Study announcement, made today by the UK Space Agency during the 72nd International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Dubai, prepares the ground for the UK government to lead an ambitious Active Debris Removal (ADR) mission by 2025.

Astroscale is well positioned to lead the delivery of an ADR mission to capture two client satellites. The proposed Study programme, Cleaning Outer Space Mission through Innovative Capture (COSMIC) will harness Astroscale’s capture technology and in-orbit capabilities, currently undergoing extensive testing during the End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-demonstration (ELSA-d) mission. Those demonstrations got off to a great start on August 25 when the ELSA-d servicer successfully completed the first test capture of a replica debris satellite; Astroscale is now forging ahead with more complex non-tumbling and tumbling captures before de-orbiting the spacecraft.

In parallel, through the European Space Agency’s Sunrise programme, Astroscale is working with OneWeb to develop the ELSA-Multi (ELSA-M) service. Leveraging the technology from the ELSA-d mission, the UK team is maturing a servicer spacecraft capable of capturing multiple defunct satellites in a single mission. Planning is already underway to test ELSA-M’s multi-capture capability with a representative OneWeb satellite during an in-orbit demonstration.

“Astroscale’s advanced technology experience developing the ELSA-d and the ELSA-M spacecraft servicers is positioning the company to deliver a ground-breaking double Active Debris Removal mission for the UK Government” said Nobu Okada, Founder and CEO of Astroscale. “Together Astroscale and the UK Space Agency have a shared commitment to clean up space debris and ensure a sustainable economic and environmental future for space.”  

“Growing reliance on satellites for a range of everyday utilities from SatNav to meteorology is making the space tech sector increasingly valuable to the UK economy. Our National Space Strategy sets out our vision for a thriving UK space sector that pushes the boundaries of innovation including a specific commitment to lead in clearing space debris” said George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation at the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. “These new projects will support our leading role in cleaning up our orbit, which has been neglected for far too long, and will help keep satellites operating safely so they can continue to provide vital services such as communications and climate change monitoring.”

“We rely on space in so many areas of our lives, yet without the rapid development of the UK’s in-orbit servicing market we cannot start removing the hazardous debris that threatens our satellite connectivity,” said John Auburn, Managing Director of Astroscale Ltd and Co-Chair of the In-Orbit Servicing & Manufacturing Industry Group. “With the right level of investment in this UK mission, we can establish the UK’s global space sustainability leadership, and develop in-orbit capability, jobs and investment opportunities for the UK space sector. Through this study, Astroscale will propose the most efficient and integrated robotic capture solutions to respond to the UK government’s mission plans.”

Astroscale’s team combines extensive systems engineering, guidance, navigation and control (GNC), mission operations, and ground segment expertise. The company is proud to partner with MDA, renowned robotics and satellite systems pioneers, to harness their expertise on capture robotics including robotic operations experience.

“We are excited to be part of this UK initiative and a core member of the Astroscale team,” said David Kenyon, Managing Director of MDA UK. “The study will allow MDA to leverage our world leading Canadian Space Robotics heritage to expand our already strong UK business in the growing in-orbit servicing market.”

Study partner Thales Alenia Space, leader in space propulsion in the UK, will focus on the propulsion system of the Astroscale mission study and in-orbit refurbishment aspects such as refuelling; they will also support the assembly, integration and verification of the main satellite servicer spacecraft.

“Efficient propulsion and in-orbit refuel-ability is essential to realise a successful servicing business. Astroscale and Thales Alenia Space are already recognised leaders in this field, working to achieve success for the UK Space industry. We are delighted to be supporting Astroscale’s national IOSM ambition,” said Andrew Stanniland, CEO of Thales Alenia Space in the UK.

“Astroscale is delighted to be awarded the study contract for the UK ADR mission,” said Dr. Jason Forshaw, Head of Future Business Europe for Astroscale Ltd. “We plan to see our cutting-edge servicer ELSA-M removing multiple failed satellites from space within just a few short years. With our team partners Thales Alenia Space, MDA and NORSS we have the opportunity to develop a world-class ADR mission with a strong UK-based supply chain.”


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