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Astroscale's patent: like a tow hook - only for satellites:

For the benefit of satellite operators who want to preserve their valuable assets - tens of thousands of satellites that are about to be launched in the next ten years - Astroscale is launching a patent that will allow safe disposal of satellites that are out of use

Astroscale docking hook. Photo PR, ASTROSCALE
Astroscale docking hook. Photo PR, ASTROSCALE

Astroscale, a developer of systems for servicing satellites and long-term orbital sustainment, has unveiled a universal docking device that the company hopes will become a standard product to be installed on all future low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

As I recall, the space sculpture issue made headlines a few weeks ago, on 16/11/2021 Russia tests an anti-satellite weapon in which a disabled satellite explodes and the resulting debris threatens the international and Chinese space stations.

Following the COP26 climate conference, Declaration of the Paris Peace Forum Net Zero Space, AndThe G7 Declaration on Sustainability in Space, Astroscale calls on satellite operators to install the new docking device on their 'products' to prepare for future disposal in the event of a malfunction or shutdown and to help protect the space environment. The docking device can be compared to a "towing hook" for a car - a standard interface that enables future service. The docking devices are customizable for different satellite designs and will allow robotic or magnetic capture mechanisms to securely connect a service to the satellite.

Crowded in the low lane

There is an unprecedented number of satellites that will be launched during the next decade, most of them into space defined as LEO - low orbit, between 250 km and 2000 km above the Earth. The US Federal Communications Commission has approved 16,447 satellites to date and has applications pending for an additional 64,816 satellites. The potential for high-speed collisions and strong impact may increase - unless the disposal of satellites becomes part of daily space operations.

"During the last 6 decades, more than 12,000 satellites have been launched, and this number can more than quadruple in a single decade," he said Novo Okada, founder and CEO of Astroscale. "This phenomenal growth shows how important space has become - to our economies, to our way of life and to our fight against the climate change crisis. We call on the space community to demonstrate a real commitment to protecting the space environment by preparing satellites with a docking device for future removal."

Installation on satellites and spaceships that will be launched from now on

Astroscale's ELSA-d satellite, now in LEO testing, is the first space service of its kind to demonstrate the technology and commercial viability of removing malfunctioning satellites. according to Arya Helzband, one of the pioneers of the space industry in Israel and CEO of Astroscale Israel, the ELSA-d mission uses the first prototype of the new docking mechanism, paving the way for Astroscale's first commercially available docking device for all satellite operators in LEO.

"Astroscale's docking device is designed to be lightweight and easy to fit on satellites in low Earth orbit," he said. John Auburn, CEO of Astroscale Ltd. "As a low-cost solution, it enables satellite capture and removal from space, while keeping our highways clear. We all value satellite communications that support our global connectivity and economy, and monitor our environment on Earth. By preparing our spacecraft today, we will ensure that space is sustainable tomorrow, for generations to come."

Illustration video:

More on the subject on the science website

One response

  1. If anything, isn't it easier to attach integral decelerators to the satellite than to send another satellite to bring it down?

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