Japanese Company Wants To Toss Satellites At Earth 

Astroscale, a new space tech company, wants to clean out defunct satellites by throwing them out of orbit.

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

the challenge

If you ask any pyromaniac what we do with things we don’t want anymore, they’re going to tell you to burn it. Whether Astroscale got advice from pyromaniacs or not is unclear, but what is certain is that this Tokyo-based company aims to burn as much junk as it can—but under one condition: the stuff has got to be in space. According to Gizmodo, Astroscale is a new for-hire service with the mission of burning all the unused satellites floating around Earth’s orbit.

Low Earth orbit, the region of space located up to 2,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, has become a cluttered mess. With an increasing number of defunct satellites aimlessly floating without purpose, the problem of space congestion is reaching critical levels. But fear not, Astroscale is developing an innovative solution to tackle this issue head-on. 

Currently, Astroscale is in the process of creating a satellite capable of stalking and capturing these dead satellites. The goal is that after the satellite hunter captures one of these useless objects, it will fling the poor thing towards the Earth, where it will burn up in a fiery death as it enters Earth’s atmosphere, ending its miserable and useless life.

Astroscale’s groundbreaking initiative, known as the End of Life Services mission, aims to capture and deorbit decommissioned satellites, effectively reducing the congestion in space. Currently, the Department of Defense’s global Space Surveillance Network is tracking more than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris, and there are many smaller fragments floating around undetected. As we continue to launch more spacecraft into Earth’s orbit, the problem of space junk will only get worse over time.

In a recently released video, the Astroscale showcases its state-of-the-art satellite and how it will eviscerate defunct satellites. After a thorough inspection, the satellite matches the tumble rate of the targeted object to align and dock with it. Once successfully docked, Astroscale’s satellite deploys its thrusters to lower the spacecraft’s orbit, eventually releasing it on a trajectory that will lead to reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, where it will burn up and no longer contribute to space clutter.

In 2021, Astroscale reached a significant milestone by demonstrating the capability of their satellite to latch onto a docking plate through a capture and release test in low Earth orbit. The successful test further solidified the company’s confidence in its mission’s feasibility.

Astroscale has scheduled the launch of its first satellite into low Earth orbit in 2025. This initial deployment will serve as a crucial testing ground, as the satellite will be equipped with a magnetic docking plate and will target a OneWeb satellite. By pushing the boundaries of space technology, Astroscale aims to revolutionize the way we tackle the growing menace of space debris.

The implications of Astroscale’s mission go far beyond simply clearing up space clutter. By actively addressing the issue of space junk, we can safeguard our valuable space assets, such as active satellites, from potential collisions and damage. Furthermore, the removal of defunct satellites will open up opportunities for future space exploration and satellite deployment, ensuring the sustainability and longevity of our presence in space.