- RHEATECH Ltd is awarded a contract by Astroscale Ltd to provide the mission control system and automation for its new ELSA-M space debris removal servicer.
- The mission control system will help Astroscale’s ELSA-M spacecraft remove multiple defunct satellites from orbit and bring them down into the Earth’s atmosphere to burn up on re-entry, removing potential hazards from low Earth orbit.
RHEATECH Ltd, part of RHEA Group, has been awarded a contract by Astroscale Ltd to provide the mission control system and operations automation for its End-of-Life Services by Astroscale Multiple Client (ELSA-M) servicer. This partnership builds on RHEA’s successful collaboration with Astroscale, which started with the company’s first ELSA-d (ELSA-demonstrator) debris removal spacecraft.
The mission control system and automation function are part of RHEA’s ASTRAL ground segment tool suite. They will enable the Astroscale servicer to be operated during critical manoeuvres when approaching, docking or releasing the defunct spacecraft. Additionally, the ASTRAL tools will help Astroscale to maintain contact between the spacecraft and the ground via multiple ground stations as ELSA-M orbits the Earth, as well as during routine spacecraft operations.
“Satellites provide us with so many vital services on Earth, from global broadband communications, GPS precise timing for financial transactions, to life-saving weather warning systems. But space is becoming congested; whether old upper stage rockets or defunct satellites, we need to introduce technology to clean up space just as we are cleaning up the oceans on Earth,” said Nick Shave, Managing Director of Astroscale UK & Europe. “Our ELSA-M in-orbit servicer spacecraft, which is being built at Harwell in the UK, is designed to safely deorbit multiple spacecraft that have reached the end of their operational lives or suffered an unexpected failure. ELSA-M will be transformational in delivering our vision to ensure the safe and sustainable development of space for the benefit of future generations and we are very pleased to be working with RHEA on this programme.”
During the next mission, scheduled for late 2024, ELSA-M will approach the identified defunct spacecraft and dock with it using a magnetic plate. The servicer then de-orbits the spacecraft to a lower orbit and releases it, so that the atmospheric drag will cause it to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. After completion of the mission, Astroscale plans to launch a full-service multi-satellite removal offering to constellation operator customers.
John Bone, RHEA’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: “RHEA is delighted to be strengthening its relationship with Astroscale and supporting its pioneering endeavour to help clean up space. For the ELSA-d servicer, we adapted our tried and tested mission control system to fit with the mission’s requirements, which operated from the National In-orbit Servicing Control Centre at the Satellite Applications Catapult, located in Harwell, UK. This technology will now be used for the ELSA-M spacecraft to enable it to remove a commercial satellite, following on from the capture success of the ELSA-d mission.”