Animated Video Shows How Japan’s Astroscale Will Toss Satellites to Their Fiery Death

Animated Video Shows How Japan’s Astroscale Will Toss Satellites to Their Fiery Death

Low Earth orbit is littered with defunct satellites floating without purpose. A Japanese company is developing a satellite able to stalk those dead satellites, capture and release them towards a fiery reentry through Earth’s atmosphere, thereby putting an end to their misery.

Tokyo-based Astroscale released a video detailing its End of Life Services mission, designed to capture and deorbit decommissioned satellites as a way to alleviate space congestion.

More than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris are currently being tracked by the Department of Defence’s global Space Surveillance Network, with lots of smaller pieces also floating around undetected. As more spacecraft are delivered to Earth orbit, the issue of space junk will only get worse over time.

Japan’s Astroscale wants to offer a solution, the first commercial deorbiting service for hire. As shown in the video, Astroscale’s satellite is designed to creep up on the defunct spacecraft and, after inspecting it, match its tumble rate in order to align and dock with it. Once it’s docked, Astroscale will lower the spacecraft’s orbit using its thrusters before releasing it on a trajectory toward Earth’s atmosphere. The decommissioned spacecraft will then burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, putting an end to its stint in orbit.

In 2021, Astroscale demonstrated that its satellite can latch onto a docking plate through a capture and release test in low Earth orbit. “This has been a fantastic first step in validating all the key technologies for rendezvous and proximity operations and capture in space,” Nobu Okada, founder and CEO of Astroscale, said in the company statement.

The company is scheduled to send its first satellite to low Earth orbit sometime in 2025, where it will be tested on a OneWeb satellite equipped with a magnetic docking plate.

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Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.

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