Astroscale Limited, the UK and European subsidiary of Astroscale Holdings Inc., have opened their new Zeus satellite manufacturing and operations facilities at the Harwell Science & Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
The UK space industry is growing rapidly, quadrupling in size since 2000, and with ambitious growth plans over the next 10 years. This new, advanced UK facility will enable Astroscale to build satellite debris removal servicer satellites, and rapidly develop their commercial offering in the coming years, helping to further contribute to the growth, innovation, and manufacturing potential of the UK space sector.
The move from Astroscale’s previous premises to the new facility, Zeus, marks a 900% increase in space, covering approximately 20,000 square feet to accommodate a high specification satellite manufacturing facility, a satellite operations center, and offices for 120 staff.
Astroscale’s new UK headquarters will be at the heart of the Harwell Science & Innovation Campus Space Cluster, close to partners such as the UK Space Agency, European Space Agency (ESA), Satellite Applications Catapult, the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and many space industry partners. This strategic location will enable Astroscale to lead development of the in-orbit servicing supply chain and commercial servicing economy through creating new jobs, national capability and world-leading facilities in the UK.
“I am delighted to open our new state-of-the-art UK premises at the Harwell Science Campus,” said Nobu Okada, Founder and CEO of Astroscale. “This facility will support our ambitious growth plans for the UK business, allowing us to work with our partners to drive forward the development of the in-orbit servicing commercial market in the UK. If we act now, we will ensure a sustainable space economy for future generations.”
The UK continues to be a leader in both the policy and technology development for space debris removal and sustainability. Recent strategic announcements include the UK National Space Strategy in 2021, the UK Space Agency’s Corporate Plan 2022-25, and more recently, the Plan for Space Sustainability (June 23, 2022), which highlight the UK Government’s commitment to build on the UK’s early mover advantage in space robotics and In-Orbit Servicing & Manufacturing (IOSM) to establish global leadership in space sustainability.
“With nearly 5,000 operational satellites and over 30,000 pieces of trackable debris, the ability to operate safely in space is growing increasingly challenging,” said Dr. Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency. “The UK is leading efforts to make space more sustainable and we’re backing companies, such as Astroscale, to design innovative new missions to clear hazardous space junk. It’s fantastic to see this state of the art facility open, bringing new capabilities to the UK and creating more than 100 jobs at the Harwell Space Cluster.”
“We want debris removal and in-orbit servicing to be part of routine operations by 2030. We can only deliver this through working in close partnership with government and industry stakeholders who share our ambition to push the boundaries of innovation and space technology,” said Nick Shave, Managing Director of Astroscale Limited. “Together we can create an in-orbit economy and new high-value jobs that will ensure space remains safe and sustainable for future generations. This is transformational moment for us as a fast-growing space business to open our own facilities that will design and manufacture Astroscale debris removal and satellite servicing satellites in the UK. We also plan to harness our long-standing partnership with the Satellite Applications Catapult on space mission operations for future in-orbit servicing missions including our ELSA-M multi-client removal servicer, and to evaluate use of the STFC National Space Test Facility at Harwell. This is also a milestone moment for Astroscale., as we create a new home for our 120 staff, many of whom will soon start working on the recently announced UK Space Agency Active Debris Removal Mission to remove two defunct satellites from Low Earth Orbit.”
This latest mission phase of The Cleaning Outer Space Mission through Innovative Capture (COSMIC) will harness Astroscale’s Rendezvous and Proximity Operations (RPO) and robotic debris capture capabilities to remove two defunct British satellites currently orbiting Earth by 2026.
Astroscale has selected a small number of potential UK satellites currently in congested orbit to capture and remove, two of which will be identified for removal during this latest Phase B of the COSMIC mission. Further space situational awareness data will inform this final selection.
The COSMIC mission will be developed in collaboration with ten UK-based partner companies in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland including: MDA UK, Thales Alenia Space UK, Nammo, GMV-NSL, NORSS, Goonhilly, Satellite Applications Catapult, Willis Towers Watson, and other advisory and industrial partners.
Astroscale’s team combines extensive systems engineering, Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC), mission operations and ground segment capability. The company is partnered with MDA, renowned robotics and satellite systems pioneers, to harness their expertise on capture robotics including robotic operations experience.
Industrial partner Thales Alenia Space will focus on the propulsion system of the Astroscale mission study and on-orbit refurbishment aspects such as refueling; they will also support the assembly, integration and verification of the main satellite servicer spacecraft.
Astroscale most recently proved their magnetic capture and RPO capability during the End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-demonstration (ELSA-d) mission in 2021-2022. During this mission, the team performed a series of complex maneuvers to align, release and capture a demonstration satellite with a servicer spacecraft using relative navigation and on-board systems.
The COSMIC debris removal servicer will be a technological evolution of Astroscale’s Sunrise program End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-Multi-client (ELSA-M) servicer – a commercial partnership together with the European and UK Space Agencies and OneWeb. The first ELSA-M debris removal space servicer will be launched ahead of the UK’s Active Debris Removal mission in 2024.
“As our reliance on space technologies increases rapidly and the UK becomes a global hub of satellite design, manufacturing and launch, we are committed to leading efforts to make space more sustainable,” said Dr. Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency. “With 1,700 satellites launched last year alone, the need to safeguard the space environment for the benefit of everyone on Earth has never been more pressing. By catalysing investment, backing innovative new technologies and supporting a national mission to remove space debris, we can keep space open for future generations and protect the important satellite services that modern life depends on.”
“We’re delighted to be building an in-orbit servicing economy in the UK, which will help us to deliver the UK government’s ambitious plans to develop a sustainable space environment that will support the many essential services that space enables for our society,” said Nick Shave, Managing Director of Astroscale Ltd. “Astroscale’s COSMIC UK Active Debris Removal Mission Phase B programme will define an efficient, national robotic capture capability to safely remove two defunct UK-registered satellites in Low Earth Orbit. With our proven space mission heritage, and strong industrial partnerships across the breadth of the UK, we can make in-orbit debris removal part of routine satellite operations by 2030.”
“Astroscale is pleased to be able to continue our commercial service developments through the COSMIC mission,” said Dr. Jason Forshaw, Head of Future Business Europe for Astroscale. “We will create new capability, minimise development costs and bring excellent value for money to the UK Space Agency and the taxpayer. COSMIC will leverage the ELSA-M supply chain, which is spread over the breadth of the UK, supporting the levelling-up agenda. We look forward to working with our 10 selected partners, advisors and suppliers, all of whom are world leaders in spacecraft mission technology, payload development, and specialist support services.”
“MDA is proud to be part to be working with Astroscale and the UK Space Agency on this important project to assess, study and ultimately develop solutions to protect and preserve the space environment,” said Anita Bernie, Managing Director, MDA UK. “As we explore and expand space further than we ever have before, we all have a role and responsibility to play in ensuring that we do so safely and sustainability.”
“Thales Alenia Space is extremely proud to contribute to this important UK led Mission, working towards a more responsible use of space for everyone,” said Andrew Stanniland, CEO of Thales Alenia Space in the UK.
“The UK ADR mission provides an opportunity for Astroscale to harness our technological innovations, rapidly expanding UK capability, and unwavering commitment to develop a world-class debris removal service,” said Nobu Okada, CEO and Founder of Astroscale.