It will be equipped with a docking device that will allow connecting and 'towing' satellites and launchers and taking them off course
The problem of reducing and disposing of space debris in orbit around the Earth worries more and more people from the space industry, especially in light of the fact that quite a few companies are planning to launch thousands of LEO (low Earth orbit) satellites in the coming years. Today, more than 2,200 'dead' satellites are documented and more than 630 cases of orbital collisions have occurred in recent years.
A new satellite - ELSA-M - designed and built by Astroscale, the market leader in satellite service and long-term orbital sustainability, will provide end-of-life services to those satellites, with its main mission: to capture disabled or malfunctioning satellites. "Space today is dangerously crowded," he says Ofir Azriel, CEO of Astroscale Israel.
In the company's previous space mission, in 2021, in which the ELSA-D satellite starred, the company successfully demonstrated the ability of magnetic capture for satellites in preparation for entering commercial activity. The new model, ELSA-M, after being launched into space and arriving at the site of the malfunctioning satellite, will perform a visual inspection before connecting to it. ELSA-M will then use its propulsion to lower the disabled satellite into atmospheric orbit, where it will break up and burn up safely. At this point the ESLA-M will disengage and begin moving to rendezvous with its next target.
At the same time, the company announced the launch of its generation 2 docking device. The device will make it possible to attach more easily to the malfunctioning satellites and offer what Azriel calls "a necessary starting point for a variety of service options and a more responsible use of the Earth's orbital resources." The company hopes that the new device will become a standard product that will be installed on all future satellites in low Earth orbit from now on. According to Azriel, 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.
Astroscale, which is funded, in part, by the British Space Agency and the European Space Agency (ESA), aims to be the first company to demonstrate the commercial use of the new service. According to Azriel, the ESLA-M satellite will be sent into space next year, with the first task being to demonstrate attachment and diversion to the destruction orbit of the OneWeb satellite, which will be pre-equipped with Astroscale's new docking device. In 2021, Astroscale signed a $3.2 million deal with OneWeb, which plans to launch more than 6,000 satellites into low Earth orbit, under which it will provide reliable disposal services for decommissioned satellites.
More of the topic in Hayadan: