ASTROSCALE is a Singapore-based satellite services company that was founded in 2013 with the objective of developing innovative solutions against the growing number of space debris. The company’s mission is to actively contribute to the sustainable use of the space environment by developing scalable and innovative on-orbit technologies, in order to safely remove the most threatening debris in orbit. On top of spacecraft debris removal technologies, Astroscale is invested in providing debris monitoring and tracking capabilities. OSG1 is one of its first products, a 20 kg microsatellite that will collect key information characterizing small-size debris from 100μm or larger in Low Earth Orbit’s most congested areas. The objective is to contribute to the global effort of cataloguing small-size orbital debris and to improve future manned and un-manned space missions’ safety. The company has already secured USD 35 million for the space debris remover ELSA 1 (planned for its first mission in 2018).
According The Guardian, the steady rise in space junk that is floating around the planet could provoke a political row and even armed conflict, according to scientists, who warn that even tiny pieces of debris have enough energy to damage or destroy military satellites.
To get an idea of how big the space debris program has got, check NASA’s Orbital Debris Program. Over the last half-century, low Earth orbit has become so littered with debris that space agencies and scientists warn of the increasing danger of collisions for satellites and manned spacecraft. The United States Air Force now keeps track of about 23,000 pieces of space junk that are big enough — about four inches or larger — to be detected from the ground.
In a recent article in New York Times, Mitsunobu Okada, ASTROSCALE’s founder, explained that he has created a two-step plan for making money from debris removal. First, ASTROSCALE plans to launch a 50-pound satellite called IDEA OSG 1 next year aboard a Russian rocket. The craft will carry panels that can measure the number of strikes from debris of even less than a millimetre. ASTRSCALE will use this data to compile the first detailed maps of debris density at various altitudes and locations, which can then be sold to satellite operators and space agencies.
Interestingly, it seems that ASTROSCALE agrees that the only way to resolve the Low Earth Debris problem, is to have a kind of Extended Producer Responsibility for the satellite owners, which will oblige them to take care the space garbage they left behind them!