Astroscale presents its space debris removal system at the Paris Air Show

Founded in 2013 with the objective of developing innovative solutions against the growing number of space debris, Singapore-based startup Astroscale shed some light on spacecraft and technologies it is developing.

Astroscale has already been working on two spacecraft, ADRAS-1 and IDEA-1, both are concept-proof missions. The former, ADRAS-1 mission is scheduled to be launched as a piggyback payload atop Dnepr rocket in 2017. The spacecraft, weighting 80kg in total, consists of a carrier satellite called Mother, and a Boy, catcher satellite contained inside the Mother. The Boy is slated for release once spacecraft are in-orbit and de-orbiting target is chosen.

'Boy' satellite 1:1 model at Astroscale's booth at the Paris Air Show
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The Boy catcher satellite has a mass of 20 kg and fit with a unique edge part, containing company's silicon proprietary adhesive compound. ADRAS-1 demonstration mission will present the Astroscale's capability to conduct a non-cooperative approach, debris capture and burn up during atmospheric reentry from a low Earth orbit (LEO).

Boy employs several dozen of small solid-propellant thrusters in order to perform a close up and capture of a piece of space debris. Mother fits with a hybrid propulsion system containing both ion and hydrogen-propelled thrusters. Once Mother releases Boy, it will not become a piece of space debris itself, but is expected to perform tasks of in-orbit servicing nature.

ADRAS-1 mission phases shown by small spacecraft made of 'Lego-like' bricks.
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IDEA-1 mission is scheduled for launch even earlier than ADRAS-1, in 2016, also on-top of a Dnepr launcher. Contrary to ADRAS-1, it will deal with the smallest pieces of space debris, having up to 2 mm in diameter. IDEA-1 spacecraft is designed on the same satellite bus that is of ADRAS-1, therefore has similar mass and dimensions.

The key task of IDEA-1 is to collect information on density and characteristics of small-size debris in LEO. Moreover, it will have an internal shielding in order to capture inside and analyze small pieces of debris. According to Yasunori Yamazaki, Marketing and Business Development manager at Astroscale, IDEA-1 mission will allow understanding the optimum and necessary thickness of spacecraft shielding.

Yasunori Yamazaki (right) of Astroscale and Viacheslav Pronskyi (left) of SpaceDigest
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Yasunori Yamazaki told SpaceDigest that Astroscale currently has near 50 employees, working at two offices – Singapore headquarters and manufacturing facility in Japan. Having raised $7.7 million in a Series A funding from JAFCO venture capital firm and nine entrepreneurs earlier this year, Astroscale is implementing step-by-step approach to contribute to sustainable use of space environment by crafting scalable and cost-effective in-orbit technologies, and to safely remove the most threatening pieces of debris.

Upon performance of two technology-proof missions by 2017, the company plans to have full-scale space debris removal means both for LEO and geostationary orbit, and eventually be capable to conduct variety of in-orbit servicing tasks.

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