Session

Technical Session 2: Next on the Pad

Location

Utah State University, Logan, UT

Abstract

Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, the orbital environment has become increasingly congested. Of the 5,550 satellites currently orbiting the Earth, only 2,700 are operational, and they are joined in orbit by millions of objects of space debris. Astroscale has developed a robotic servicing spacecraft and suite of technology to address this challenge by removing debris and defunct satellites from orbit; the smallsat servicer mission End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-demonstration (ELSA-d) launched on March 22, 2021, will demonstrate these new and innovative space debris docking and removal technologies on orbit. The ELSA-d mission includes both a smallsat servicer and a demonstration client vehicle. The mission will demonstrate multiple dynamic complex capture activities, testing all core sequences of end-to-end debris removal technologies, including a magnetic docking mechanism, client search, far-and short-range client rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) using absolute to relative navigation hand-over, client inspection, and both non-tumbling and tumbling docking. While missions involving RPO and docking have been previously undertaken, none have been attempted without communication between the servicer and client spacecraft nor without a precise knowledge of the client location. The ELSA-d mission tests RPO capabilities and new docking technologies while facing both of these challenges as a more realistic analog to debris removal and post-mission disposal scenarios, thereby paving the way for active debris removal in the near term. In this paper, the authors share the mission design and new technologies developed to address space debris removal in the 2021 ELSA-d mission.

Available for download on Saturday, August 07, 2021

Share

COinS
 
Aug 9th, 11:30 AM

The World’s First Commercial Debris Removal Demonstration Mission

Utah State University, Logan, UT

Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, the orbital environment has become increasingly congested. Of the 5,550 satellites currently orbiting the Earth, only 2,700 are operational, and they are joined in orbit by millions of objects of space debris. Astroscale has developed a robotic servicing spacecraft and suite of technology to address this challenge by removing debris and defunct satellites from orbit; the smallsat servicer mission End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-demonstration (ELSA-d) launched on March 22, 2021, will demonstrate these new and innovative space debris docking and removal technologies on orbit. The ELSA-d mission includes both a smallsat servicer and a demonstration client vehicle. The mission will demonstrate multiple dynamic complex capture activities, testing all core sequences of end-to-end debris removal technologies, including a magnetic docking mechanism, client search, far-and short-range client rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) using absolute to relative navigation hand-over, client inspection, and both non-tumbling and tumbling docking. While missions involving RPO and docking have been previously undertaken, none have been attempted without communication between the servicer and client spacecraft nor without a precise knowledge of the client location. The ELSA-d mission tests RPO capabilities and new docking technologies while facing both of these challenges as a more realistic analog to debris removal and post-mission disposal scenarios, thereby paving the way for active debris removal in the near term. In this paper, the authors share the mission design and new technologies developed to address space debris removal in the 2021 ELSA-d mission.