Render of Astroscale’s ADRAS-J satellite, to be launched by Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle. (Photo: Business Wire)
Published by The Mainichi, 23 September 2023
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japanese startup Astroscale Holdings Inc. said Friday it has won a $25.5 million contract from the U.S. Space Force to develop a satellite capable of providing in-space refueling services to other satellites.
Astroscale, a Tokyo-based company founded in 2013, aims to provide “on-orbit services,” such as refueling, that would extend the service life of satellites, and the removal of space debris.
A feature likely to have been among the capabilities considered of high value by U.S. Space Systems Command, the premier space capability delivery organization of the U.S. Space Force, is the company’s satellite-grabbing technology, which involves a robotic arm.
According to the command, Astroscale’s U.S. office is scheduled to deliver a prototype for its refueling satellite by 2026.
It is rare for a Japanese private company to seal a contract with the U.S. military related to satellite development.
“For more than 60 years, satellites’ designs and operations have been constrained because they have been required to launch carrying a ‘lifetime’ fuel supply,” the command said in a press release dated Tuesday, noting that refueling technology will “transform the existing paradigm for space operations.”
Improved on-orbit capabilities and operational flexibility will “strengthen deterrence and enable more diverse and effective responses to the growing threat posed by our adversaries’ military space capabilities,” it also said.
Due to the difficulty of supplying fuel to satellites in space after their launch, many of them end up becoming space debris or burn up as they enter the atmosphere once their operations end.
Having the capability to refuel satellites is expected to help extend their service lives and reduce space junk.
Astroscale was founded by Nobu Okada, a former Finance Ministry bureaucrat who saw space debris removal as a potentially profitable new business venture.
See: Original Article