SAN FRANCISCO — A new Astroscale video shows how the End of Life Services by Astroscale-Multiple mission, ELSA-M, will capture and deorbit a OneWeb communications satellite.
“ELSA-M will be the world’s first commercial removal of a client’s inactive spacecraft,” Alex Godfrey, Astroscale business development manager, told SpaceNews.
In 2025, Astroscale plans to send ELSA-M into very low Earth orbit for commissioning. Next, the Astroscale satellite will move into a higher orbit to test its ability to latch onto a OneWeb satellite equipped with magnetic docking plates.
“We work very closely with OneWeb,” Godfrey said. “We’ve done so in a public-private partnership on the ELSA-M program for the last five years. We’ll be removing a spacecraft that has failed that is part of their constellation.”
ELSA-M is designed to capture multiple defunct satellites.
“To make the price of doing this reasonable enough that the business can really take off, we have to be able to to remove multiple items with one spacecraft,” Godfrey said. “We go up, grab our first client, bring it down and then release it. Then, we have to go back up and grab another.”
Astroscale is building and preparing to operate ELSA-M in its U.K. facility. Funding for the mission is being provided by the U.K. Space Agency, the European Space Agency and OneWeb.
Astroscale demonstrated its ability to latch onto a docking plate in low Earth orbit in 2021 during capture and release tests as part of End of Life Services by Astroscale-Demonstration, ELSA-D, mission.