Satellite Space News

SSTL satellite heads to Tokyo as part of Astroscale mission to tackle space debris

Astroscale’s ELSA-d mission consists of a Chaser satellite and the Target satellite, and will demonstrate key technologies for orbital debris removal.

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), a company engaged in space debris removal, has shipped a 16 kg Target satellite for Astroscale’s End-of-Life Services by Astroscale demonstration (ELSA-d) mission to Tokyo.

The ELSA-d mission is designed to simulate the capture of orbital debris and validate key technologies for end-of-life spacecraft retrieval and disposal services.

In Tokyo, the Target satellite will be bolted to the Chaser satellite for environmental testing ahead of its 2020 launch.

The Target and Chaser satellites will be attached for launch and de-orbit, but while on-orbit at 500-600 km, they will be deployed in a series of separation and capture manoeuvres using search, identification, rendezvous, docking, and de-orbit technologies.

The ELSA-d Target satellite was designed and manufactured by SSTL in Guildford, UK and incorporates S Band communications, GPS positioning, and a 3-axis control system. It will also fly an HD camera and lighting to record the capture sequences during eclipse.

A ferromagnetic docking plate with optical markers is attached to the Target, allowing the ~180kg Chaser satellite to identify and estimate attitude before deploying a capture extension mechanism with a magnetic plate to latch on to the Target satellite.

ELSA-d will demonstrate the first semi-autonomous capture of a non-responsive, tumbling Target, as well as the first identification of a Target that is outside of the field of view of the relative navigation sensors on the Chaser.

Once the demonstration concludes, the linked satellites will be moved to a lower orbit in readiness to re-enter the atmosphere where they will burn up.

Commenting on the importance of this satellite, Sarah Parker, Managing Director of SSTL, said: “It is vital that the international space community tackles the issue of space junk and therefore I am very pleased that SSTL is involved in Astroscale’s ELSA-d inaugural end-of-life spacecraft retrieval demonstration mission. We are looking forward to following the in-orbit operations of this milestone mission.”

Nobu Okada, Founder and CEO of Astroscale, added: “We are excited to receive SSTL’s Target satellite here at our Tokyo headquarters as we take the next step in this groundbreaking mission. We would like to thank SSTL for the commitment to ELSA-d and for working together to address the ongoing buildup of hazardous space debris in low Earth orbit.”

ELSA-d is scheduled to launch in 2020 on a Soyuz from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.