This latest £2.5 million award forms part of a larger, beam-hopping, satellite program, totaling more than £32 million, granted from the UK Space Agency, via the European Space Agency’s Sunrise Program to partners that include 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. Astroscale’s Sunrise-funded program, known as ELSA-M, will develop the technology to remove multiple, retired satellites in a single mission.
John Auburn, Managing Director of Astroscale UK and Group Chief Commercial Officer,said, “This ambitious project with OneWeb is the next step towards maturing our technologies and refining our UK capabilities to develop a full-service Active Debris Removal offering by 2024. 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.”
Astroscale’s ELSA-d demonstration mission is currently in LEO, preparing for a series of complex rendezvous and close proximity debris capture and release maneuvers 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 program, including the on-board algorithms, sensors and software.
Dr. Jason Forshaw, Head of Future Business, Europe, explained, “We’d like to thank OneWeb, UKSA, and ESA for their efforts in supporting the development of this project. This funding will help us evolve key rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) 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. 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 has pioneered the market for future debris removal by committing to fit all new OneWeb satellites with a compatible docking plate.”
John Auburn concludes, “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.”