UK Space Agency (UKSA) Supports Astroscale and ClearSpace for Multi-Debris Removal Mission

by | Sep 29, 2022 | News Articles, Product, Space Exploration

The two companies will be financially supported by the UK Space Agency to design debris removal missions in space.

As our space-faring capabilities grow, so does the crowd in the space environment. As the field of space becomes increasingly accessible and affordable, keeping up with space traffic has become more challenging. In an effort to mitigate this space debris problem, the UK Space Agency (UKSA) awarded ClearSpace and Astroscale around £4 million. This monetary support comes after funds given in October to study their missions’ feasibility. 

While ClearSpace has been granted £2.25 million to continue conducting their study on designing a mission to get rid of abandoned satellites from Low Earth orbit (LEO), Astroscale has been awarded £1.7 million to come up with a satellite servicer that will remove several defunct satellites in a single mission. Both companies have been awarded the sum under the (ADR) Phase B demo contracts. 

(Source: ClearSpace)

ClearSpace will continue the design phase of its Active Removal (CLEAR) mission development until October 2023, afterwhich the preliminary design review will be conducted. As part of its CLEAR mission, the Swiss company is in the process of creating a spacecraft furnished with robotic arms to grab space debris and drag it out of orbit and into Earth’s atmosphere to burn up. The company aims to launch its debris removal programme by 2025.

ELSA-M Servicer (Source: Astroscale)

The Phase B contract will also support Japan-based Astroscale on the development of its mission, Cleaning Outer Space Mission through Innovative Capture (COSMIC). COSMIC will use both Astroscale’s magnetic capture technology and robotics to deorbit two discontinued UK spacecrafts. Moreover, Astroscale will be using an upgraded version of the ELSA-M servicer, which is part of a multi-client debris removal mission involving the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency and OneWeb. ELSA-M servicer is targeted to be launched in late 2024., before COSMIC. 

In June this year, the UK announced its Plan for Space Sustainability to manage the growing problem of space debris and lead the movement towards space sustainability. The plan involves efforts to clean up our Earth’s orbital environment and ensure sustainable space activities, such as mitigating space debris via removal.