The UK branch of D-Orbit signed a €2,197M contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for phase 1 of the development and in-orbit demonstration of a “Deorbit Kit” as part of ESA’s Space Safety Program (S2P).
The decommissioning kit proposed by D-Orbit is a self-contained suite of equipment that can be tailored to space vehicles of any size to enable them to perform a propulsive decommissioning maneuver at the end of their mission or after a failure, even if the spacecraft has become unresponsive. The kit and the know-how developed are also foundational capabilities that can be used in the future as part of active debris removal mission concepts.
“We believe that the development and in-orbit demonstration of this system will pave the way for the development of several other applications of autonomous deorbiting systems for future LEO missions,” commented Simon Reid, COO of the UK branch of D-Orbit. “In addition, the work performed in this activity will define a foundational capability that can be adapted in the future for active debris removal mission concepts, such as on-orbit installation of de-orbit kits on satellites already in space”.
D-Orbit will lead a consortium to develop the multi-purpose kit, which will be installed initially on a Vega Rocket payload adapter called Vespa (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter). This type of equipment is traditionally left in a ‘gradual disposal’ orbit, which although compliant with current international guidelines, represents a contribution to the growing debris problem. The kit will be installed before the launch to perform a propulsive direct re-entry maneuver over a designated uninhabited area shortly after the rocket has deployed its payload.
The design reference mission for the first phase of development for this new device is the VESPA Upper part, which is currently foreseen as the launch adaptor for the ESA ClearSpace-1 mission, scheduled for 2025. The final target application for the device will be confirmed at the start of phase 2 of the program.
“This contract is an important milestone for D-Orbit group and for the entire space sector” says Luca Rossettini, CEO of D-Orbit. “We, space pioneers in the space industrial ecosystem, shall stand up and act to preserve the future of our business and the entire humankind. The first product we launched on the market long time ago was a decommissioning device: today we are working to make sure the space debris problem turns into a commercial opportunity and a resource for the future development of space.”
Besides D-Orbit, the consortium includes Airbus Defence and Space, ArianeGroup, GMV Innovating Solutions, and Optimal Structural Solutions. The kickstart meeting is scheduled for today, September 8th, 2021.