Launchspace Technologies To Test Orbital Debris Collection & Spacecraft Shielding Experiment on ISS

Launchspace will utilize a slot on the new ISS-external Bartolomeo platform for the in-orbit demonstration of an Orbital Debris Collection and Spacecraft Shielding payload

TOULOUSE, France (Airbus PR) — Airbus and Launchspace Technologies Corporation (LTC) have signed a contract for a mission on the International Space Station (ISS): Airbus’ Bartolomeo platform will host the Launchspace Orbital Debris Collection and Spacecraft Shielding Demonstration Payload for a 12-month period starting in 2022.

The payload consists of orbital ‘Debris Impact Pads’, which house a series of sensors that record the impact, force and orbital location of debris on the ISS.

This in-orbit demonstration is a key step towards Launchspace’s plan to send Debris Collection Units into equatorial low-Earth orbits. The units would manoeuvre to avoid satellites and large debris items, while capturing debris in a size range from 1 to 50 millimeters. These are typically too small to track and can hence become an unavoidable risk for spacecraft.

Airbus’ Bartolomeo platform offers external payload hosting capabilities on the outside of the ISS, providing unique opportunities for in-orbit demonstration and verification missions. It has been attached to the ISS Columbus Module earlier this year and is operated in a partnership between Airbus, ESA, NASA and the ISS National Laboratory. 

“We are extremely pleased to be able to demonstrate our technology on Bartolomeo. The platform’s ‘front row’ position in the flight direction of the Space Station is perfectly suited for our purpose: Our sensors will be directly exposed to the Space environment, which will give us highly realistic and accurate measurement results.”

— Launchspace’s CEO John Baumann

In addition, LTC plans to make use of one of the key features of the Bartolomeo Service: At the end of the mission, the payload will be returned to Earth for a post-flight inspection of the debris impacts.

The Launchspace Debris Impact Pads will be hosted using the ArgUS Multi-Payload Carrier, designed to co-accommodate smaller payloads on one Bartolomeo payload site. The ArgUS Carrier has been developed and is currently in construction at Airbus DS Space Systems Inc. in Houston, Texas.

“The ArgUS Carrier is a key addition to our Bartolomeo Service, It enables us to offer our unique Bartolomeo Service also to customers that wish to fly smaller payloads, often on a limited budget.”

— Debra Facktor, Head of U.S. Space Systems, Airbus U.S. Space and Defense

The Bartolomeo platform, launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, was installed on the ISS Columbus module on 1st April, 2020. Bartolomeo is an investment of Airbus into the ISS infrastructure, enabling hosting of up to twelve external payloads in the environment of Space.

Bartolomeo is suitable for many types of missions, including Earth observation, environmental and climate research, robotics, material sciences and astrophysics. It provides sought-after payload-hosting capabilities for customers and researchers to test space technologies, verify a new space business approach, conduct scientific experiments in microgravity or enter into in-space manufacturing endeavours.

Launch opportunities are available on every servicing mission to the ISS, which occur about every three months. The payload accommodation allows slots for a wide range of payload mass, from 11 to 990 pounds. As an evolution of the platform, Airbus will provide optical data downlink capacity of one to two terabytes per day.

Payloads can be prepared and ready to operate within one and a half years after contract signature. Payload sizes, interfaces, preparation before launch and integration processes are largely standardized. This reduces lead times and saves costs significantly compared to traditional mission costs.

Airbus offers this easy access to space as an all-in-one mission service. This includes technical support in preparing the payload mission; launch and installation; operations and data transfer; and an optional return to Earth.

More on Bartolomeo here.