Astroscale’s ADRAS-J Completes Successful Rendezvous

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Space Junk Removal Satellite Completes Rendezvous

A satellite dedicated to the removal of space debris, launched by Japanese company Astroscale, has successfully completed its rendezvous with its target and is now entering the proximity operations phase. This phase involves the satellite approaching another spacecraft in orbit.

Launch and Objective

The Active Debris Removal by Astroscale-Japan (ADRAS-J) satellite was launched on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket on February 18. Its primary goal is to analyze a Japanese H-2A rocket upper stage that launched the GOSAT Earth observation satellite in 2009. By doing so, the satellite aims to test various technologies and operations related to approaching and monitoring debris objects in space.

Current Progress

As of now, the ADRAS-J satellite is within several hundred kilometers of its target and has begun utilizing Angles-Only Navigation. This navigation method allows the satellite to estimate its relative position and velocity using on-board cameras.

According to Astroscale, this phase marks a significant milestone in the mission’s objective of demonstrating rendezvous and proximity operations. Eijiro Atarashi, ADRAS-J Project Manager at Astroscale Japan, expressed that this achievement highlights the expertise and collaboration among teams in Japan, the UK, and the US.

“Starting Angles Only Navigation is a huge milestone for the ADRAS-J mission, highlighting the expertise and teamwork among Astroscale teams in Japan, the UK, and the U.S.,” said Eijiro Atarashi.

ADRAS-J is currently in a 347 x 383 miles orbit. Following the proximity approach phase, the satellite will attempt to execute a fly-around of the 11 meters long and four meters in diameter upper stage. This maneuver will capture essential images and data to assess the movement and condition of the rocket body.

Future Endeavors

The 330-pound spacecraft is part of an orbital debris removal program supported by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The data and operational experience gathered from ADRAS-J will be instrumental in the future removal of space debris, a growing concern that poses a threat to the sustainable use of orbital space around Earth.

Astroscale, established in 2013, operates subsidiaries in various countries, including the UK, the US, France, and Israel. The company’s upcoming plans involve the launch of its End of Life Services by Astroscale-Multiple (ELSA-M) vehicle, designed to dock with satellites and remove them from orbit.

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Chris Jones

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