Astroscale UK Signs £2.5 Million Agreement to Develop Space Debris Removal Technology Innovations with OneWeb

Posted May 24th, 2021 Posted in News ,

Harwell, Oxford, UK, May 24, 2021Astroscale Ltd. (“Astroscale UK”), the UK subsidiary of Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market leader in satellite servicing and orbital sustainability across all orbits, today announced a  funding award from partners OneWeb, the global satellite communications network, to mature their technology and capability towards a commercial service offering by 2024.

This latest £2.5 million award forms part of a larger beam-hopping satellite programme, totalling over £32 million, granted from the UK Space Agency (UKSA), via the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Sunrise Programme to partners including OneWeb, SatixFy, Celestia UK and Astroscale UK.

OneWeb is leading the way in providing satellite services with space sustainability at the heart of their mission goals. “This partnership with OneWeb demonstrates their commitment to space sustainability and is the next step towards maturing our technologies to develop a full-service Active Debris Removal offering by 2024,” said John Auburn, Managing Director of Astroscale UK and Group Chief Commercial Officer. “Astroscale’s EndofLife Services by Astroscale-Multi (ELSA-M) servicer is specifically designed for the servicing of constellation satellites that are fitted with a compatible docking plate, including OneWeb’s Joey-Sat.”

Astroscale’s Sunrise-funded programme, known as ELSA-M, will develop the technology to remove multiple retired satellites in a single mission. “This multi-client strategy will drive down service costs and incentivise large satellite constellation partners to accelerate the speed at which they remove space junk,” added Auburn.

Astroscale’s ELSA-d demonstration mission is currently in low Earth orbit, preparing for a series of complex rendezvous and close proximity debris capture and release manoeuvres this summer. Much of the innovative autonomous technology undergoing testing during ELSA-d this year will continue to evolve, at pace, during this new Sunrise ELSA-M programme, including the on-board algorithms, sensors and software.

“We’d like to thank OneWeb, UKSA and ESA for their efforts in supporting the development of this project,” said Dr. Jason Forshaw, Head of Future Business, Europe. “This funding will help us evolve key rendezvous and proximity operations technologies and capabilities beyond ELSA-d towards an end-of-life servicing offering for a range of constellation customers. Our ELSA-M service will have the capability to undertake multiple sequential debris removals expanding the reusability of the servicer.

“In parallel to this project, we’re developing our next generation docking plate (DP), which is fitted to clients before launch, and is designed to enable a servicer to grapple the client,” added Forshaw. “We are encouraging constellation customers to fit DPs to ‘future proof’ their satellites in case of need for removal due to failure, or at end of life, or to provide future in-orbit servicing. OneWeb is maintaining a leading role with its Responsible Space initiative, by committing to fit OneWeb satellites with a compatible docking plate, including Joey-Sat.”

“Joey-Sat will be used to demonstrate how next-generation 5G connectivity can benefit life on Earth,” said Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA. “ESA is proud to support the space industry in Europe to bring such innovation to the competitive global telecommunications market. We congratulate all the partners involved.”

“We’re delighted to partner with the Sunrise team to support the UK government’s space sustainability leadership goals, and keen to rapidly advance the UK’s commercial growth in providing in-orbit servicing over the next few years,” added Auburn.


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