Astroscale, which just made an attempt to capture simulated debris in orbit last month, is poised to begin “Space Junk Servicer” testing in late 2024.
The Tokyo-based company has partnered with broadband satellite provider OneWeb to launch the ELSA-M mission (End-of-Life Service with Astroscale-M), “which will then provide space debris removal services to satellite operators. We have ambitious plans to (opens in new tab)May 27.
The European Space Agency (ESA) and the British Space Agency provided €14.8 million ($15.9 million) in financial support for the mission.
“This spacecraft demonstrates our innovative rendezvous, capture and deorbit capabilities using a full-size constellation client,” said John Auburn, Astroscale managing director, in a statement. says.
“With the vision of making debris removal part of our daily routine by 2030, we plan to launch commercial services for satellite operators such as OneWeb shortly after the on-orbit demonstration,” adds Auburn. I was.
The purpose is to allow this servicer to acquire and deorbit multiple satellites in low earth orbit during a mission. This happens when the satellite runs out of fuel or fails.
Related: Space debris: Experts say there are more storm clouds in orbit
Astroscale launched a demonstration mission called ELSA-d in March 2021. The purpose of this mission was to test acquisition technology and the systems that would allow the “Chaser” spacecraft to locate and find it, so it brought out its own simulated space he junk. Approach the target safely. Astroscale halted testing in May due to “abnormal spacecraft conditions.”
Nonetheless, the company was able to demonstrate the switch from absolute navigation (which relies on ground control and GPS sensors) to relative navigation mode, which allows autonomous movement based on the spacecraft’s onboard systems.
This was not the first setback for Astroscale, as another approach attempt was halted in January due to “technical anomalies”.
This new deal with OneWeb extends the 2021 deal, with the two companies pledging to work together on debris removal technology. Astroscale’s system relies on a magnetic docking plate attached to the spacecraft prior to launch. It is designed to be attached to and dragged down by a tracking spacecraft after a mission has ended.
Mega-constellations such as OneWeb and SpaceX’s Starlink are raising concerns about space safety as more satellites in orbit could lead to more collisions. An August 2021 analysis found that Starlink satellites were responsible for more than half of the orbital encounters.
However, SpaceX has disclosed some measures to deal with the debris problem. The company says it will actively deorbit satellites when their missions are over and equip them with autonomous navigation technology to avoid trouble. SpaceX he submitted to the FCC in February, and he also submitted a proposal to put 30,000 Starlink Internet satellites into orbit (there are currently fewer than 2,000 Starlinks in operation).
But NASA is one of the entities concerned about the potential for collisions affecting their satellites, not just their launch opportunities. Some have even cited the risk of the so-called Kessler syndrome, a cascade of collisions that render the environment around the Earth unusable.This scenario was proposed by his NASA physicist Donald Kessler in the late 1970s. famous for being
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