After raising a total of US$53 million over the past 3 years, Singapore/Japan startup Astroscale has announced that its first microsatellite, IDEA OSG 1, is ready to be shipped for launch. The microsatellite will be the first step in fulfilling the company’s mission to tackle the space debris problem.
IDEA OSG 1 is a 22kg microsatellite co-developed with Japanese corporation OSG, and will be launched by a Soyuz-2, most likely in November or December 2017. The main mission of IDEA OSG 1 will be to monitor small orbital debris, 100μm (0.1mm) or larger, within congested areas of Low Earth Orbit (LEO). It will be the world’s first space debris monitoring microsatellite.
The announcement comes approximately a week after Astroscale announced a joint agreement with Japan’s space agency JAXA for the firm’s second spacecraft, Elsa-d. The spacecraft will be part of the End-of- Life Service by Astroscale (ELSA) program, which is a satellite-retrieval service for retired satellites.
Planned for launch in the first half of 2019, Elsa-d will comprise 2 modules, a Chaser and a Target, which will together detect and retrieve targeted satellites. JAXA, under the agreement, will give Astroscale access to technologies that examine methods to approach and capture space debris. Additionally, JAXA will provide aid to validate the imagery of simulated debris obtained through the ELSA-d on-orbit mission.
The impetus behind Astroscale’s mission is the growing number of space debris, which threatens spaceflight safety and destroys the space environment. According to Astroscale, there are 750,000 pieces of small debris which are unable to be tracked from earth, along with 20,000 trackable pieces. The company hopes to contribute to sustainable use of space by tracking and removing debris in a scalable manner.