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article imageJapan-based firm to use magnet to ‘dock’ orbiting junk

By Karen Graham     Feb 17, 2019 in Technology
Tokyo - Astroscale Holdings Inc. is preparing to rendezvous with, capture and dock a test satellite early next year to show how its technology can help clear orbiting junk, Miki Ito, 36, general manager of Astroscale's Japan unit, said in an interview.
Astroscale was founded in 2013 by Nobu Okada, an IT entrepreneur who proposed using a start-up mentality to address the business of orbital debris mitigation.
READ MORE: British-led mission successfully harpoons 'orbital debris'
According to Bloomberg, the venture has raised about $103 million, including money from Japan’s state-backed INCJ Ltd., as it vies with rivals to invent an affordable way to prevent a chain-reaction of collisions known as the Kessler effect.
Astroscale has apparently done its homework. The company is proposing to aid in the removal of orbital debris through the provision of End of Life (EOL) and Active Debris Removal (ADR) services - providing technical solutions. But they are also looking at the bigger picture.
New Astroscale office in Tokyo  Japan
New Astroscale office in Tokyo, Japan
Astroscale Holdings
Astroscale is actively working to define the business case for this service and is working with national space agencies, international institutions, non-profit organizations, insurance companies, and satellite operators to develop norms, regulations, and incentives that contribute to the responsible use of space.
Filling a space in a niche market
The unimaginable amount of space debris floating around the planet has drawn the attention of companies and governments worldwide, including the U.S., Japan, Singapore, and the U.K. On February 16, Digital Journal featured the UK-led mission's successful demonstration of harpooning a piece of space junk.
Astroscale has two spacecraft being readied for their demonstration. Called ELSA-d, this stands for "End-of-life Services by ASTROSCALE-demonstration." The two spacecraft, a Servicer (~160 kilograms and a Client (~20 kilograms), are launched stacked together.
This is ELSA-d Servicer. It carries the rendezvous and magnetic capture mechanisms.
This is ELSA-d Servicer. It carries the rendezvous and magnetic capture mechanisms.
The Servicer is equipped with proximity rendezvous technologies and a magnetic capture mechanism, while the Client has a docking plate which enables it to be captured. In the demonstration, the servicer will repeatedly release and capture the client.
This test will demonstrate the rendezvous and magnetic capture mechanisms in the servicer. Other demonstrations will include target search, target inspection, target rendezvous, and both non-tumbling and tumbling capture.
"Given the difficulty of fixing satellites in orbit, there is usually no choice but to bring malfunctioning craft down," said Ito, who worked on microsatellite projects at the Next Generation Space System Technology Research Association before becoming president of Astroscale Japan, then general manager this month, reports the Stars and Stripes.
More about Space debris, Astroscale Holdings, ELSAd, rendezvous and magnetic capture, demonstration mission
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