Astroscale Holdings Inc has successfully launched its End-of-Life Services by Astroscale demonstration (ELSA-d) mission – the world’s first commercial mission providing core technologies for space debris removal.

ELSA-d consists of two satellites stacked together — a servicer designed to safely remove debris from orbit and a client satellite that serves as a piece of replica debris. It was launched by GK Launch Services on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday (March 22).

Al Colebourn, Head of Spacecraft Operations at Astroscale UK said: “I am delighted to confirm that Astroscale’s Mission Operations team has successfully taken control of both our spacecraft and confirm that they are both safely positioned in orbit around 550km.”

Speaking from the National In-Orbit Servicing Control Centre at the Satellite Applications Catapult at Harwell Campus, UK, he added: “I thank our global team for their tremendous efforts and look forward to starting our technical demonstrations after commissioning.”

ELSA-d will propel regulatory development

“While leading the way in proving our debris removal capabilities, ELSA-d will also propel regulatory developments and advance the business case for end-of-life and active debris removal services,” said Nobu Okada, Astroscale’s Chief Executive Officer. “This successful launch brings us closer to realising our vision of securing the safe and sustainable development of space for the benefit of future generations.”

John Auburn, Managing Director of Astroscale UK and Group Chief Commercial Officer said: “We’re delighted with the ELSA-d launch phase and the efforts of our Ground Systems and Mission Operations team here at Harwell Campus in the UK. This is the world’s first end-to-end mission to demonstrate the technology and capability to safely remove debris from space. We’re now looking ahead to our innovative and challenging demonstrations in a few months’ time. Thank you to all our partners for their support and encouragement to get us to this stage. We’re very proud to contribute to space sustainability efforts and the development of the in-orbiting servicing sector in the UK.”

Complex demonstrations form next phase of mission

Following additional preparatory steps in orbit, ELSA-d will enter the next phase of this pioneering mission. In the first of three complex demonstrations, the servicer satellite will release, and then dock magnetically, with the client satellite. Following this demonstration of non-tumbling capture, ELSA-d will perform two additional demonstrations: one to capture the client while it is tumbling, and one to deliberately lose, re-locate, approach and re-capture the client from far-range. Finally, the two spacecraft will de-orbit safely, burning up in the earth’s atmosphere on re-entry. Each of these demonstrations will take Astroscale one step closer towards delivering commercial debris removal and other in-orbit services.

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