05 November 2018 Community news

Astroscale secures $50 million to clean low Earth orbit

New funding secured by debris-removal company brings total capital raised to US $102 million

Astroscale's End of Life Services (ELSA-d) satellite which is scheduled to launch in early 2020. Image: Astroscale
Astroscale's End of Life Services (ELSA-d) satellite which is scheduled to launch in early 2020. Image: Astroscale

Astroscale Pte. Ltd, the market-leader in developing a space debris removal service to secure long-term spaceflight safety, has obtained additional funding of US $50 million from a group of investors led by INCJ Ltd. (INCJ), and including funds operated by SBI Investment Co., Ltd.(SBII) and Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd.(Mitsubishi Estate) among others. This is the fourth round of funding raised by the ground-breaking company based in Singapore and it brings the total amount of capital investment to US $102 million.

Founded in 2013 by a single individual, Astroscale has grown into an organization of nearly 60 people spread across four countries, with most of the team located at an R&D and manufacturing office in Tokyo, which has existed since 2015. As launch and satellite development costs decrease and space becomes more accessible the risks associated with space debris increase dramatically.

Governments and industry around the world are becoming more aware of this concern and are beginning to demand solutions. Astroscale has responded to this call by boosting productivity in its development and design work in Japan, upgrading and expanding ground control center operations as well as engineering, procurement and business development capabilities in the UK, and making plans for the establishment of an entity in the US in 2019. The capital raised in this round will allow Astroscale to successfully achieve these exciting goals.

Approximately 750,000 pieces of space debris over one centimeter in diameter are orbiting the Earth, threatening the safety of active spacecraft. Given this active risk of space debris currently in orbit, coupled with the anticipated increase in debris objects that are likely to be created in the near future, governments are continually re-examining their approach to space situational awareness and space traffic management. Private industry and governments are improving capabilities in orbital debris monitoring and discussing norms and standards for debris removal missions.

“The recognition of how to address the threat of space debris has changed drastically in the five years since Astroscale was founded,” Nobu Okada, Founder and CEO said. “Government officials and theprivate sector are now ready to support debris removal as a business. This latest round of fundingrepresents a strong vote of confidence in Astroscale’s mission and will allow us to accelerate our position as the global market-leader in the field of debris removal.”

In addition to developing the technology necessary for debris removal, Astroscale is an active participant in the formulation of global best practices and standards that will facilitate future in-orbit servicing activities. By addressing both technical and policy aspects, Astroscale is leading the creation of the business case for orbital debris removal.

Astroscale is currently working on its first debris capture demonstration mission, End of Life Services by Astroscale – demonstration (ELSA-d), which is scheduled to launch in early 2020. ELSA-d will consist of two spacecrafts, a Chaser and a Target, stacked together. The Chaser will repeatedly release and capture the Target in a series of demonstrations that will prove the technology necessary for debris removal, including rendezvous & docking and proximity operations. In the lead-up to this unique mission, Astroscale aims to reinforce its development structure, provide customer-oriented services and build an optimal supply chain.

Mikihide Katsumata, President and COO of INCJ, remarked, "INCJ acknowledges the significant role that Astroscale plays as driver of technology development and a catalyst to domestic and international governments, space agencies, and private companies to address the issue of space debris. INCJ continues to support Astroscale and we hope they will find a solution to the threat of space debris, which is a potential bottleneck to the development of a vibrant space industry."

“After evaluating Astroscale’s innovative technology and ability to solve a variety of business challenges, SGI Group proudly joins as a shareholder,” said Katsuya Kawashima, Director and President of SBII. “SBI Group has invested in a number of growing start-ups and we now hope to contribute to Astroscale’s business success as it pursues a mission to shape the space industry.”

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