The space fever among startups is stronger than ever and, with everyone worried about space debris and its potential threat to space missions, its time to take action to tackle this problem. With an estimated 750.000 bits of old satellites and rockets circling the Earth, numerous threats arose, from a collision that could instantly shatter a multimillion dollar satellite to a chain reaction of destruction that could render entire bands of low-earth orbit un-navigable for satellites.
Astroscale Holdings Inc, a Japan-based developer of space debris removal services is already working to clean space trash. The startup has already raised a total funding of US$102 million for their space cleaning program. As the satellite industry booms, this venture is working to prevent space-debris collisions that could paralyse transportation, defence and telecommunications systems. They are calling its satellite wrecking truck ELSA-d, for End of Life Service by Astroscale-demonstration.
The company is currently working on its first debris capture demonstration mission, scheduled to launch in 2020. They are preparing to capture and dock a test satellite to show how its technology can help clear orbiting junk. With a mission to be the world’s first in-orbit debris capture and removal demonstration using its “rendezvous and magnetic capture” mechanisms, they are preparing “chaser” and “target” modules will rocket into orbit, then separate. The chaser will attempt to capture the target, once in a steady state, and again when it is tumbling. Once safely docked, the chaser and target will power back towards Earth, burning up on re-entry into the atmosphere.
The space debris removal sector has drawn urgent attention and funding from companies and governments, including those in the US, Japan, Singapore and the UK. Astroscale is planning to raise its workforce as it expands to the US and other global markets.