Astroscale, a Japanese startup, has successfully shipped its ELSA-d spacecraft to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The ELSA-d will be integrated with a Soyuz rocket for a launch that is scheduled for March 2021.

Astroscale spacecraft

Since this is the company's first mission, it is crucial time for Astroscale. It will be considered as the first in-space demonstration of the company's technology for de-orbiting space debris. It is a cornerstone of the company's proposed space sustainability service business, as it intends to clean up with orbit from debris.

The ELSA-d mission by Astroscale is a small satellite mission that will show two kinds of key technologies that enable the company's vision for orbital debris removal, according to TechCrunch.

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First, the ELSA-d will focus to be a targeting component, it will demonstrate an ability to locate and to dock with a piece of space debris, using its positioning sensors including GPS and laser locating technologies. It will then be used by a servicer satellite to find and attach to a target satellite that is launched at the same time. It will stand in for a potential piece of debris in the orbit.

Astroscale has planned to dock and release with the target using its servicer a lot of times over the course of the mission. It will show that it can identify and capture uncontrolled objects in space perfectly and that it can maneuver the objects for controlled de-orbit.

The move by the company will prove out the feasibility of the technology underlying the business model. It can also set the company up for more commercial operations in the future, according to Astroscale.com.

In October 2020, Astroscale announced that the company had raised $51 million, this means that the total budget of the company is $191 million all in all.

The company also got the staff and IP of Effective Space Solutions in June 2020, which it will use to make out the geostationary servicing arm of its business, in addition to the LEO operations that the spacecraft will demonstrate.

Astroscale's journey

Astroscale is an orbital spacecraft sustainability startup that has acquired the IP, the assets and the staff of an Israeli company Effective Space Solutions.

The company's aim is to broaden its service offering in order to include servicing geostationary or GEO satellites, as well as low Earth orbit or LEO debris removal, according to CalCalistech.

Astroscale was founded in Japan back in 2013 and its mission back then was to address the growing issue of orbital debris and sustainable space operations. It is also setting up a station in Israel, as part of the deal.

Currently, the company has offices in the UK, the US and Singapore, and this new arrangement will make it more of a global company as it opens more offices around the world. Aside from cleaning debris in the orbit, Astroscale has another mission.

The mission in Israel will focus on the GEO satellite life extension. Satellite life extension is something that numerous companies are looking to develop and bring to the market, including orbital company Orbit Face and Maxar.

Extending the life of GEO satellites with on-orbit servicing is a very lucrative industry. It would mean that companies can get more usable life, revenue and investments in building the expensive, massive and pricey launch spacecraft to begin with.

If Astroscale's mission is deemed successful, it is well on its way to become one of the most well-known tech companies in the world.

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Written by Sieeka Khan

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