Orbital debris startup Astroscale chosen by JAXA for its first space junk removal mission – TechCrunch
Start-up of the Japanese orbital debris removal technology Astroscale will work with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on the agency’s first mission to remove some of the trash currently in orbit. You have been selected by the agency to participate in their Commercial Debris Removal (CRD2) project, which includes two separate phases of the mission that together aim to achieve the removal of a large body currently in orbit, the spent upper one Stage of a Japanese missile.
Astroscale was founded in 2013 and focuses solely on cleaning orbital space, which is seen as a necessary step for long-term sustainable activity in orbit. Space debris has become a hot button issue in the space industry. Current projections predict a massive increase in the number of active satellites orbiting the planet thanks to the surge in satellite constellation projects at the plants of commercial operators like SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb.
The JAXA mission is expected to complete its first phase by the end of 2022. Astroscale will support this phase by building, launching and operating a satellite that will monitor and collect data on the rocket upper stage that will be removed from orbit in the second phase. The goal is to find out more about its movement and the surrounding dirt environment in order to achieve safe and successful removal.
“The data obtained in Phase I of CRD2 is expected to increase the hazards of existing waste and the need to remove it,” said Nobu Okada, founder and CEO of Astroscale, in a press release. “Debris removal is still a new market, and our mission has always been to establish routine debris removal services in space to ensure orbit sustainability for the benefit of future generations. The international community is becoming more aware of the risks posed by space debris and we are more committed than ever to making this potential market a reality. “
Astroscale is already involved in other orbital debris removal projects and plans to launch a demonstration mission for its End-of-Life Services offering in the second half of this year. This mission will be the world’s first demo of commercial debris removal in orbit if all goes according to plan. This is an important step in proving that the technology can meet the demands of this growing opportunity.
Earlier this year, a near-failure of two defunct orbital spacecraft hit the headlines, and observers noted that a collision would have resulted in a new cloud of debris containing “at least hundreds” of new pieces of trackable debris. Astroscale and similar companies, combined with other initiatives such as more detailed tracking and information sharing between satellite operators, could provide a much more sustainable operating environment in space for planned or ongoing commercial activities in orbital space.