Rocket Lab will fly an Astroscale mission to meet with a used rocket stage in the low Earth orbit (LEO) before deorbiting it.
Astroscale awarded Rocket Lab a contract for the deployment of the Active Debris Removal by Astroscale-Japan (ADRAS-J) spacecraft on September 21. In 2023, ADRAS-J will be launched from New Zealand’s Launch Complex 1 by a Rocket Lab Electron.
ADRAS-J is going to rendezvous with and analyze a Japanese launch’s upper stage that has been abandoned in orbit. As part of the 2-phase Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration project, JAXA, the Japanese space agency, awarded Tokyo-centered Astroscale a deal for the mission in 2020. JAXA has yet to complete the second step, which will entail an effort to deorbit the upper stage.
In order for the spacecraft to reach the rocket stage, the mission needs a perfect orbital insertion. In a statement, Rocket Lab Chief Executive Officer Peter Beck stated, “Rendezvousing with a piece of trash in orbit, traveling at about 27,000 kilometers for every hour, is a tremendously complicated process that requires precise precision when it relates to orbital deployment.” “Electron’s Kick Stage has proved this precision throughout 18 missions, delivering in-space transportation to position our clients’ satellites precisely where they need to go.”
Astroscale has many business lines, including in-situ inspection, which ADRAS-J will do, according to Mike Lindsay, the company’s chief technical officer, during a discussion panel at Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) Conference on September 15. Satellite life enhancement and transfer are two further avenues of business.
Astroscale is well recognized for creating technology that enables active debris removal and deorbiting satellites at the completion of their lifespan. End-of-Life Services by the Astroscale-demonstration (ELSA-d), the company’s first spacecraft, deployed in March on the Soyuz rideshare voyage, has been evaluating some of those technologies.
On ELSA-d on August 25, Astroscale completed the first release as well as capture of the client spacecraft, launching the small spaceship from the larger one and later capturing it with a magnetic device. Lindsay stated that a series of increasingly difficult tests are planned for the coming months, including trying to capture clients while tumbling.
Rocket Lab has just announced its second launch contract this month. The business announced on September 8 that it had won a contract to launch five Electron satellites for French startup Kinéis to establish a 25-satellite internet-of-things constellation. In the 2nd quarter of 2023, several launches will begin.
After the markets closed on September 21, Rocket Lab revealed the contract. Rocket Lab shares, which began trading on the Nasdaq on August 25 following the conclusion of the merger with the special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC), actually closed up approximately 0.5 percent at $14.54 on September 22, up about 40% from the completion of their trading’s first day.