Japanese Tech Firm to Develop Satellite for On-orbit Refueling, Space Debris Removal

  • Defensemirror.com Bureau
  • 07:37 AM, September 25, 2023
  • 841
Japanese Tech Firm to Develop Satellite for On-orbit Refueling, Space Debris Removal

Astroscale Holdings Inc., a Japanese startup headquartered in Tokyo since its inception in 2013, announced on Friday that it secured a $25.5 million contract from the U.S. Space Force.

The contract entails the development of an advanced satellite designed to provide in-space refueling services to other orbiting satellites.

Astroscale's mission is to offer "on-orbit services," including satellite refueling and space debris removal, aimed at prolonging the operational lifespan of satellites. Notably, their technology, featuring a robotic arm capable of satellite capture, is a sought-after asset, particularly by the U.S. Space Systems Command, the premier space capability delivery organization within the U.S. Space Force.

As part of this agreement, Astroscale's U.S. office is on track to deliver a prototype for their refueling satellite by 2026, a development that marks a significant achievement for a Japanese private company in securing a contract related to satellite development with the U.S. military.

The U.S. Space Systems Command emphasized the transformative potential of refueling technology. For decades, satellites have been constrained by the need to carry a finite fuel supply from launch, limiting their operational lifespan. With the advent of refueling capabilities, the established norms of space operations are set to undergo a radical shift, enhancing on-orbit capabilities and operational flexibility. This transformation is seen as essential in bolstering deterrence and enabling more versatile and effective responses to the evolving threat posed by adversarial military space capabilities.

Historically, the challenge of replenishing fuel in space after satellite launch has resulted in many satellites becoming space debris or burning up upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere once their missions conclude. Astroscale's innovative refueling technology is expected to mitigate this issue, extending the productive life of satellites and contributing to the reduction of space debris.

Astroscale's founder, Nobu Okada, a former Finance Ministry bureaucrat, recognized the potential profitability of space debris removal as a pioneering business opportunity. The company's recent contract with the U.S. Space Force marks a significant step toward realizing this vision and revolutionizing satellite operations.

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