Astroscale selects LiDAR from Jena-Optronik for innovative space debris removal mission ELSA-M

Astroscale is the first company to develop the commercial removal of space debris, such as defunct satellites. After the successful deployment of the ELSA-d mission to demonstrate magnetic capture of Astroscale’s client satellite in 2021-2022, the company launched a new mission called ELSA-M. Currently scheduled for the end 2024, a servicer called ELSA-M is in development to remove multiple satellites from Low Earth Orbit. The mission will encompass a fly-around inspection followed by a complex capture manoeuver between the satellite servicer and the defunct client satellite. The mission will close out by de-orbiting the client to a low drop-off altitude for burn up on re-entry.

The docking manoeuvre with the defunct satellite will be supported by Jena-Optronik’s Rendezvous- and Docking Sensor RVS 3000-3D (LiDAR) which will provide sensor data to aid the servicer to capture the Client satellite safely and securely. Thanks to its robust and radiation-hard design, the RVS 3000-3D will help to support future ELSA-M commercial servicing missions offering satellite constellation customers not only one, but multiple satellite removals in a single mission.

Best in class, Jena-Optronik’s sensor is a single box LiDAR, which contains all optical and electronic components including the necessary processing capabilities for approaching non-cooperative targets such as non-functional satellites. The fully qualified RVS 3000-3D has achieved TRL9 (Technology Readiness Level) in the frame of Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) missions back in 2020 and 2021.

“We’re delighted to work with Jena Optronik to develop our ELSA-M commercial service.” says Neil Yarr, Head of Guidance Navigation and Control at Astroscale “Our LIDAR partner is critical to the success our GNC operations during our forthcoming ELSA-M debris removal demonstration mission in which we hope to capture a defunct satellite during a series of complex operations requiring exceptional sensor accuracy and reliability.”

“We’re very happy that Astroscale has selected us as their partner for the LiDAR. It is a great honour to contribute our part to such an important and pioneering mission like ELSA-M”, explains Peter Kapell, CEO Jena-Optronik GmbH. “Space debris has become a big threat in recent years and it will become an even bigger challenge with more and more spacecraft and satellite constellations. Therefore, we are very glad to support Astroscale in their mission to contribute to a sustainable future and to make living and working in space much safer for future generations.”

As more and more sustainability issues like climate change and waste prevention are in the news, it is important to start cleaning up historical debris and start preparing new satellite spacecraft with docking plate mechanisms for future removal in order to safeguard the safe space environment. The Jena-Optronik team is proud to provide a significant contribution to this task with its RVS 3000-3D as part of the ELSA-M mission.