Astroscale’s ELSA-d Prepares for Controlled De-orbit in Final Mission Phase (Image Credit: Space Daily)
Astroscale’s ELSA-d Prepares for Controlled De-orbit in Final Mission Phase
by Simon Mansfield
Jindabyne, Australia (SPX) Jun 27, 2023
In a recent announcement, Astroscale, a pioneering leader in space sustainability, has disclosed detailed plans for the final phase of its groundbreaking End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-demonstration (ELSA-d) mission. This heralds a new milestone in the ongoing global effort to effectively manage space debris and ensure orbital sustainability.
The ELSA-d mission has been dedicated to testing and demonstrating technologies critical to space debris removal. Over the last two years, 2021 and 2022, it has successfully shown the viability of many of these key technologies. Now, the focus has shifted to the last critical step in the process: the controlled and safe de-orbiting of the ELSA-d servicer satellite.
To carry out this complex operation, Astroscale’s Operations Team has detailed a series of small, controlled burns at consistent intervals. These maneuvers are crucial not only to the de-orbiting process but also to Astroscale’s ongoing research. Each maneuver provides a unique opportunity to gather valuable data, specifically around optimizing the burn-and-wait periods for de-orbiting procedures, particularly when operating with limited thruster availability.
Upon establishing a solid understanding of the cycles and the maximum maneuver size, the Operations Team plans to gradually increase the frequency of the maneuvers. With the accumulation of data and iterative improvements, the team will be able to generate a clearer timeline for the satellite’s de-orbit. It is expected that the de-orbiting process will span several months, with the objective of completing operations within 2023.
The method involves utilizing the servicer satellite’s remaining propellant to gradually lower its orbit into the denser regions of Earth’s atmosphere. Following this descent, the team expects the servicer’s planned re-entry and burn-up to occur swiftly and safely.
The client satellite, which does not possess the capability to maneuver, is projected to de-orbit naturally over the course of several years. More details about this process can be found in a related report by Astroscale.
Astroscale expressed gratitude to its partners and supporters who have contributed to this mission to make space sustainability a reality, encapsulated in their rallying hashtag, #GoELSAd. This update and the expected successful completion of the ELSA-d mission underscore the vital work Astroscale and similar organizations are performing to protect our shared orbital environment.