Astroscale has published a video demonstrating the concept of the space cleaner ELSA-M (End of Life Services by Astroscale-Multiple). The spacecraft is scheduled to be launched in 2025.
According to Astroscale, ELSA-M will be the world’s first commercial space tug with the ability to de-orbit many inactive satellites. Currently, its launch is scheduled for 2025.
The first target of ELSA-M will be a faulty OneWeb satellite. It is planned that after the launch, the tug will dock with the spacecraft (all satellites of the grouping are equipped with magnetic docking plates specifically for this purpose), after which it will move it to a lower orbit. Next, the ELSA-M will undock from the satellite and head for a new target. The OneWeb spacecraft will burn up in the atmosphere in a few months.
Recall that in 2021, Astroscale launched the ELSA-D mission, designed to demonstrate the capabilities of orbital rendezvous and docking with other satellites. After entering orbit, the spacecraft released a small target satellite and moved away from it by a few centimeters. After that, the spacecraft docked again.
In January 2022, Astroscale conducted a new experiment. This time, both satellites were separated at a distance of several tens of meters, after which they were supposed to begin rendezvous and docking. However, the operation failed due to a malfunction of the engines of the main unit. In the future, Astroscale specialists still managed to work out the rendezvous operation, but due to unresolved problems with the engines, the re-docking never took place.
Also, Astroscale recently unveiled its plan to extend the life of Hubble. It involves raising the telescope’s orbit with the help of a space tug, which will give it at least a few extra years of life.
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