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Making the space economy more sustainable by removing space junk


A space partnership is working to speed up the safe de-orbiting of end-of-life satellites

Spotted: The space around our planet is getting very crowded. According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), there were 11,330 individual satellites orbiting the Earth at the end of June 2023. This represents almost a 40 per cent increase since January 2022. With more satellites going up every day, there is growing concern about the threat these objects represent to each other and to astronauts.

A number of national and international initiatives are working to require satellites to be de-orbited once their missions are complete. However, this also brings up the question of how to do this safely. This is where Astroscale can help. The on-orbit servicing company has recently partnered with, Astro Digital, a global provider of space-based systems and mission support, to use its Generation 2 Docking Plate for end-of-life servicing and de-orbiting preparation.

Astroscale’s in-orbit rendezvous and magnetic docking plate will be incorporated into Astro Digital’s modular satellite bus for end-of-life servicing preparation. With the Docking Plate in place, on-orbit servicing spacecraft, such as Astroscale’s ELSA-M servicer, can securely dock with the client satellite and then relocate it or remove it from orbit.

More satellites were launched in 2022 than in any year before, and this trend is set to continue. Most are launched into crowded but commercially valuable low-Earth orbits. This makes safe de-orbiting a major concern. So, it is unsurprising that Astroscale has raised a total of $376 million since its establishment, including $76 million in a recent funding round.

The increasingly crowded conditions in low-Earth orbit have spurred a number of recent innovations. These include a space debris tracking system and the use of smaller satellites.

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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