A Partnership Built to Combat Space Trash

Astroscale prepares to launch space debris removal service.

OneWeb, Astroscale, the UK Space Agency, and ESA have partnered to launch a space junk servicer by 2024. The partnership comes with a €14.8 million ($15.8 million) investment that will allow Astrocale to advance its ELSA-M debris removal spacecraft from design through manufacturing and up to the satellite’s pre-integration phase.

Once launched, ELSA-M will complete an on-orbit demonstration mission before beginning duties as part of a commercial debris removal service for satellite operators. The spacecraft will be capable of removing multiple decommissioned satellites over a single mission. 

“We plan to launch our commercial service for satellite operators, such as OneWeb and others, soon after the in-orbit demonstration, with a vision to make debris removal part of routine operations by 2030,” said Astroscal Managing Director John Auburn.

The background: ELSA-M builds on the work done for ELSA-d, a demonstration mission launched in March 2021 that successfully captured a dummy satellite. The spacecraft has subsequently lost four of eight thrusters due to a pair of anomalies. However, ELSA-d has continued to complete controlled close-approach rendezvous operations despite the issues.

Earlier in May, Astroscale’s Dave Hebert told Payload: “Over the next several months, we’ll analyze the next phase of the mission, including the potential for a safe and viable magnetic recapture of the client.”