ELSA-d Debris Removing Spacecraft Launched

ELSA-d satellite prepared for launch in a cleanroom at Baikonur Cosmodrome. (Credit: Roscosmos)

TOKYO, March 23, 2021 (Astroscale PR) – Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market leader in satellite servicing and long-term orbital sustainability across all orbits, confirmed the successful launch of its End-of-Life Services by Astroscale demonstration (ELSA-d) mission. This marks the start of the world’s first commercial mission to prove the core technologies necessary for space debris docking and removal. ELSA-d, which consists of two satellites stacked together — a servicer designed to safely remove debris from orbit and a client satellite that serves as a piece of replica debris — was launched by GK Launch Services into a 550 km orbit on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, March 22, at 6:07 am (UTC).

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Samantha Bee Looks at Space Junk & the Kessler Syndrome

Video Caption: While we’ve been so focused on separating our cardboard and plastic down on Earth, waste, abandoned satellites, and other man made debris have been accumulating in space. If we want to continue our progress in space and maintain our technology, it’s time for a major cleanup! Watch Full Frontal with Samantha Bee all new Wednesdays at 10:30/ 9:30c on TBS!

Soyuz-2 to Launch 38 Spacecraft from 18 Countries on March 20

Soyuz-2 rocket lifts off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with 36 OneWeb satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — On March 20, a launch of the Soyuz-2 launch vehicle with the Fregat upper stage is scheduled from the Baikonur Cosmodrome that will deliver 38 spacecraft (SC) from 18 countries into three sun-synchronous orbits:

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An Enormous Increase in Launches Threatens More Orbital Debris

Credit: ESA/UNOOSA

PARIS (ESA PR) — Since the beginning of the space age, with the launch of Sputnik in 1957, we have launched thousands of rockets carrying more than ten thousand satellites into space.

The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in these numbers, and over the last few decades there has been a change in the type of mission flown, with private companies (yellow) launching smaller satellites than those launched by non-commercial agencies (blue).

This graph, created in a joint project between ESA and the UN, also shows the number of unregistered objects (red) has increased in recent years. It should be noted that these are objects not yet registered with the UN, and registration rates are expected to increase.

In episode 4 of the ESA-UNOOSA space debris series, Ian Freeman and Francesca Letizia discuss what these changes mean for the future of spaceflight and the creation of space debris.

Astroscale ELSA-d Orbital Debris Removal Satellite Prepared for Launch From Baikonur

ELSA-d satellite prepared for launch in a cleanroom at Baikonur Cosmodrome. (Credit: Roscosmos)

BAIKONUR COSMODROME (Roscosmos PR) — The developer of the ELSA-d spacecraft, Astroscale, continues to work on site No. 92 of the Baikonur cosmodrome in preparation for the upcoming launch. At the moment, the software, solar batteries and their opening mechanisms have been successfully tested, the on-board batteries are charged, the electrical checks of the apparatus have been completed.

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2020 a Busy Year for Suborbital Launches

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Suborbital launch used to be a sleepy field that rarely attracted much public attention. Let’s face it, atmospheric research and student experiments are not front-page news. Sounding rockets don’t have the majesty and power of a Falcon 9 or Atlas V.

In recent years, exciting new entrants in the field and widespread streaming of launches have made suborbital flights exciting. Last year saw important suborbital flight tests by SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and Skyrora that garnered worldwide interest.

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Artificial Intelligence Behind 21st Century Spaceflight

Credit: ESA
  • Maintaining safety of operations and maximising scientific return are key concerns as satellites increase in number and complexity
  • Artificial intelligence offers promising solutions to modern spaceflight challenges
  • ESA and Germany’s DFKI institute have launched a new lab ‘ESA_Lab@DFKI’ for artificial intelligence research

KAISERLAUTERN, Germany (ESA PR) — It’s 4 October 1957, and the Soviet Union has just lofted humanity’s first satellite – Sputnik 1 – into the pristine orbital environment around Earth, marking the start of the Space Age.

Throughout 1960s and 70s, launches quickly increase, as the USA, Soviet Union and other countries race for space, discovering and utilising the immense value of the ‘orbital pathways’ above us – a precious, limited natural resource.

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SpaceBlower, a Rocket Against Space Debris

PARIS (CNES PR) — SpaceBlower, in French “space blower”. The purpose of this light suborbital launcher is to eject its plume at large unmaneuverable space debris. By avoiding collision with one another and their fragmentation into several thousand others, the aim is to preserve the safety of orbits and satellites. SpaceBlower is a preliminary project initiated and funded by CNES, with the support and co-funding of Bertin Technologies (now CT France). Christophe Bonnal, senior expert at the CNES launchers department, discusses it with us.

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The Top 50 Most Dangerous Pieces of Space Debris

Location of the 24,000 debris larger than 10 cm in low orbit in 2020. (Credits: NASA)

For the first time, an international team has drawn up a list of the 50 most dangerous space debris in low orbit. This unpublished Top 50 is published online on January 22, 2021 by the journal Acta Astronautica.

PARIS (CNES PR) — It is a landmark article. For the first time, space debris in low orbit (located at an altitude of less than 2,000 km) has been classified according to their dangerousness for operational satellites by a team that includes experts from China, the United States and Russia. France via CNES is one of the signatories of this historic paper published on January 22, 2021 by Acta Astronautica and whose results had already been presented, in October 2020, at the 71st International Astronautical Congress (IAC2020).

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JAXA Funds Tech to Capture Orbital Debris Using a Tether

TOKYO — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is conducting in-orbit demonstration of key components and new elemental technologies using microsatellite as part of the development of innovative basic satellite-related technologies shown in the Basic Space Plan.

We are promoting the “Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration Program” with the aim of implementing the above in a timely and inexpensive manner.

We are pleased to inform you that we have selected one additional demonstration theme below.

ClassificationRecruitment IssuesTheme NameProposing Organization
(Representative)
Main Reasons for Selection
MicrosatelliteDemonstration of technology and concept to create new space utilization market in Japan and overseas by new space utilization business conceptDebris capture technology demonstration using space tether technologyShizuoka University
(Kimihiro Nomi)
The business of utilizing debris as a recycling resource is novel. 
We can expect continuous human resource development in collaboration with space ventures.

In the future, we will proceed with preparations such as concluding necessary arrangements, technical adjustments, and safety examinations for the launch.

U.S. Government Releases Orbital Debris R&D Plan

This GIF is part of a longer animation showing different types of space debris objects and different debris sizes in orbit around Earth. For debris objects bigger than 10 cm the data comes from the US Space Surveillance Catalogue. The information about debris objects smaller than 10 cm is based on a statistical model from ESA. (Credit: ESA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In its waning days, the Trump Administration released the National Orbital Debris Research and Development Plan, which is designed to guide federal R&D efforts aimed at limiting, tracking, characterizing and remediating debris in Earth orbit.

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European Union Consolidating Space Programs Under Expanded & Renamed GNSS Agency

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The European Union (EU) is consolidating its space programs under an existing agency that is being given an expanded mandate.

The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA), which will be renamed the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUASP), will take on managing the use of the Copernicus Earth observation satellite system and oversee new initiatives in satellite communications named GOVSATCOM and space situational awareness (SSA).

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ISRO Opens Space Situational Awareness Center

BANGALORE, India (ISRO PR) — In view of ever-growing population of space objects and the recent trend towards mega-constellations, Space Situational Awareness (SSA) has become an integral and indispensable part of safe and sustainable space operations.

For the last few decades, ISRO has been carrying out SSA activities, mainly focused on safeguarding India’s space assets. Recognising the need for dedicated efforts to tackle the emerging challenges of operating in an exceedingly crowded and contested space domain, Directorate of Space Situational Awareness and Management (DSSAM) has been established at ISRO.

The Directorate engages in evolving improved operational mechanisms to protect Indian space assets through effective coordination amongst ISRO/DOS Centres, other space agencies and international bodies, and establishment of necessary supporting infrastructures, such as additional observation facilities for space object monitoring, and a control centre for centralized SSA activities.

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Congress Approves Boost for Office of Space Commerce, Funding for Weather Satellites

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Congress approved a budget boost for the Office of Space Commerce (OSC) as it gears up to oversee civilian space traffic management (STM) and space situational awareness (SSA).

Congress provided OSC with $10 million and approved its plan with the merge with the Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 approved on Monday. The amount is $5.9 million above the total the two offices received fiscal year 2020.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had wanted to elevate OSC into a bureau that would report directly to him. However, Congress elected to keep the office within the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS).

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