Cleaning up retired satellites: The Astroscale ELSA-M spacecraft will be designed to de-orbit multiple retired satellites in low Earth orbit

Developing the “brains” behind Astroscale’s debris removal spacecraft

Astroscale UK has been working in partnership with Beyond Gravity to develop the “brains”, based on Beyond Gravity’s constellation On Board Computer (cOBC), to command Astroscale’s space debris removing ELSA-M Servicer spacecraft.

Developing the “brains” behind Astroscale’s debris removal spacecraft Astroscale UK has been working in partnership with RUAG Space to develop the “brains”, based on RUAG Space’s constellation On Board Computer (cOBC), to command Astroscale’s space debris removing ELSA-M Servicer spacecraft.

The removal of space debris (e.g. defunct satellites) is a growing concern for the space industry. Astroscale is pioneering the End-of-Life Services by Astroscale (ELSA), a spacecraft decommissioning service for satellite operators that is progressing into a new commercialisation phase this year with ELSA-M.

ELSA-M will remove multiple satellites

M stands for multi-client servicer. “The ELSA-M servicer will be optimised to remove multiple retired satellites from low Earth orbit in a single mission,” explains John Auburn, Managing Director of Astroscale UK and Group Chief Commercial Officer. Astroscale’s ELSA-M servicer is specifically designed for the servicing of constellation satellites, such as those launched by the global satellite communications network OneWeb.

New computer for growing ‘New Space’ market

For these kinds of innovative missions, a high performing “brain” (On Board Computer) is needed. The computer from RUAG Space will include a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver and interface unit, all in one box. Once in orbit the computer controls the ELSA-M spacecraft, enabling repeated multi-debris removal manoeuvers and management of equipment, reaction wheels and magnetometers linked to it.

Flexible Off-The-Shelf computer

“We have developed this new computer specifically for the growing ‘New Space’ market,” says Anders Linder, Senior Vice President Electronics at RUAG Space, a leading supplier to the space industry. “Astroscale’s trust in us shows that we have a highly competitive product that meets the demands of this emerging debris removal market.” And he adds: “Our cost-effective computer with its high-quality performance is attractive for many other applications in the New Space area.” The cOBC is designed to be a very flexible Off-The-Shelf computer with high integration, short lead times and enabling high volume manufacturing.

Developing the brains behind the complex rendezvous

The computer system developed in partnership with RUAG Space – with the software from Astroscale and the hardware from RUAG Space - will support the rendezvous between Astroscale’s servicer spacecraft and the client spacecraft, a retired or defunct satellite. “The rendezvous operations are critical, requiring precision robotics technology and on-board systems to maneuver our Servicer and successfully capture our Client spacecraft.” adds John Auburn.

“Highly competent solution”

“The cOBC system from RUAG Space offers a highly competent solution, allowing the Astroscale team to concentrate many different functions in one place, which greatly simplifies our systems architecture. We also benefit from RUAG Space’s knowledge of the New Space and constellation market,” explains John Auburn.a