Astroscale, a startup that develops satellites to remove space debris from Earth’s orbit, has closed a $35 million Series B investment from from Japanese government-backed investment fund Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ) and Jafco.
With its headquarters in Singapore and a manufacturing facility in Tokyo, the company hopes to become a leading provider of scalable space-to-space solutions.
Astroscale seeks to allow spacecraft operators to use the space environment in a responsible way and by mitigating the risk of creation new debris.
INCJ is the lead investor, undertaking up to $30 million, while Jafco is investing $5 million from their fund, alongside other recurring investors. Their last funding round was a $7.7 million Series A round in February 2015, which saw Jafco, Mistletoe and angel investors participating.
The capital injection will be used to secure the development and testing of innovative space propulsion systems, a powerful adhesive-based spacecrafts’ docking system as well as key technologies used for space debris removal and spacecrafts’ End-of-Life Operations. These systems are essential to perform cutting-edge spacecrafts’ proximity operations, docking, de-orbiting services and controlled atmospheric re-entry.
Astroscale is aiming to carry out an in-orbit demonstration of active debris removal (ADR) in the 1st half of 2018, called ADRAS 1.
Astroscale states that the first IDEA OSG 1 satellite will be launched from Russia between 2016 and early 201, followed by the the launch of ADRAS 01 in 1H 2018, to commence proof of concept (PoC) tests.
According to their press release, since 2009, the global satellite industry has seen a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.75 per cent, growing from $161 billion to $203 billion in 2014. This growth has been attributed to the launching of cost-effective small satellites, as well as the ambitious development of new Low Earth Orbit (LEO) mega-constellations.
However, this growth necessitates the establishment of debris management solutions essential for the long-term use of the space environment and managing space debris. Over 23,000 trackable space debris are currently orbiting and will increase in volume due to expected collisions of spacecrafts, accidental breakup events and other junk created from current mission operations.
According to a report by The Edge, Astroscale received sponsorship from Japanese cutting tool manufacturer OSG Global, while initiating the development of a space debris detection satellite called IDEA OSG 1 in 2015.
This satellite is meant to detect small space debris which cannot be detected with ground-based radar telescopes. Space debris in low-Earth orbit will then be captured by a satellite platform called ADRAS 01 which will use lightweight but sticky adhesives to capture the space debris, which will fall and be incinerated during atmospheric re-entry.
Debris located in a higher orbit will be de-congested from a heavy traffic orbit rather than removed, due to higher energy consumption to shift them. According to details provided to The Edge, capturing satellites will incorporate advanced technologies such as ion engines, hydrogen peroxide solution-based attitude control systems and ESP (Electric Solid Propellent) thrusters.