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Space debris, commonly referred to as “space junk,” has become a significant issue in recent years due to the increasing number of satellites and rockets launched into orbit. This debris is made up of discarded rocket stages, old satellites, and other man-made objects that no longer serve a purpose.
The presence of space debris not only poses a risk to other objects in orbit but also to future space missions. Collisions between space debris and spacecraft can cause significant damage and even lead to the loss of lives.
To address this issue, several startups, including Astroscale, are working on developing technology to clean up space. Astroscale’s mission is to provide in-orbit servicing solutions, including debris removal and satellite servicing.
The company’s approach involves developing autonomous spacecraft that can rendezvous with defunct satellites and other debris in orbit, attach to them, and bring them back to Earth for safe disposal.
Astroscale has already made significant progress in this area, having successfully launched a demonstration mission in 2019 to capture and remove a simulated piece of space debris. The company has also been awarded contracts by various space agencies, including the European Space Agency, to provide debris removal services.
As the space industry continues to grow, the issue of space debris will become even more critical. Startups like Astroscale are at the forefront of developing innovative solutions to tackle this problem and ensure that space remains a safe and sustainable environment for future generations.
Astroscale has gained attention in the space industry with their ability to identify and service other satellites or remove them from orbit. They function like a vacuum, clearing debris in their path.
Recently, the company closed a series g funding round, raising over $76 million and bringing their total funding to $376 million. Among their new investors are the first private Japanese citizen to visit the International Space Station and Mitsubishi, specifically its electronics division.
Despite once focusing on air conditioning units and semiconductors, Mitsubishi is expanding its reach into space technology. Astroscale has announced a partnership with Mitsubishi Electric to develop and manufacture satellite buses for JAP any security constellations.
Satellite busses are the main bodies of satellites, and they play a crucial role in space exploration and communication. These busses are equipped with various components, such as propulsion systems, solar panels, communication devices, and scientific instruments. However, when the service life of a satellite comes to an end, it becomes a potential hazard in space. Without proper disposal, space debris can collide with other objects, creating more debris and increasing the risk of damaging active satellites and spacecraft.
To address this problem, companies like Astroscale and ClearSpace have emerged with the mission of cleaning up space junk. Astroscale, a Japanese company founded in 2013, has developed technology that allows it to capture and remove debris from orbit. Its newest satellites will be equipped with an “astro scale docking plate” that enables the removal of the satellite from orbit if it cannot de-orbit itself. This technology represents a significant step forward in the fight against space debris.
ClearSpace, a Swiss company founded in 2018, has a similar mission. In fact, the company’s name reflects its goal of clearing out space junk. ClearSpace was selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to lead the first mission to remove debris from orbit by 2025. The mission, known as ClearSpace-1, will use a four-armed robot to capture and remove a piece of space debris left over from a rocket launch.
Last fall, ClearSpace and Astroscale won contracts with the UK Space Agency to design missions for clearing space debris. The contracts represent a significant investment in the future of space exploration and communication. As more countries launch satellites and spacecraft, the risk of collisions and the proliferation of space debris increases. Companies like Astroscale and ClearSpace play a crucial role in keeping space clean and safe for future generations.
In the six decades since humans first set foot in space, there have been many innovations. However, the renewed focus on keeping space and its valuable resources clean is a challenging task that can sometimes feel out of this world. It requires international cooperation, technological innovation, and sustained investment. Nevertheless, the potential benefits of a cleaner, safer space environment are significant, and the efforts of companies like Astroscale and ClearSpace are a step in the right direction.
What do you think about the emergence of space junk removal services? Do you believe initiatives like Astroscale and ClearSpace will have a significant impact on space sustainability and exploration in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments below.