Japanese startup Astroscale shipped its ELSA-d spacecraft to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where it will be integrated into a Soyuz rocket for a launch in March next year. This is a crucial mission for Astroscale as it will be the first demonstration of the company's technology to orbit space debris in space, a cornerstone of the proposed space sustainability services business.
Astroscale's ELSA-d mission is a small-scale satellite mission that demonstrates two key technologies that enable the company's vision of removing debris from orbit. First, a target component is presented that demonstrates the ability to locate and dock a piece of space debris using position sensors including GPS and laser location technologies. This is used by a so-called "servicer" satellite to find and attach to a concurrently launched "target" satellite that represents a potential piece of debris.
Astroscale intends to dock and release its "servicer" to the "target" several times during the course of the mission to show that it can identify and detect uncontrolled objects in space and maneuver them into a controlled orbit. This will essentially prove the feasibility of the technology underlying its business model and set it up for future commercial operations.
In October, Astroscale announced it had raised $ 51 million, bringing the total to $ 191 million. The company also acquired the employees and intellectual property of a company called Effective Space Solutions in June, which it will use to expand the geostationary maintenance arm of its business in addition to the LEO operations demonstrated by ELSA-d.