On November 10, Astroscale and the New Zealand government signed an agreement to research improved orbital debris removal techniques. In a virtual event, the Tokyo-based firm inked a memorandum of agreement with New Zealand’s Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE). The agreement covers a wide range of topics related to space sustainability and safety, with a first project looking into ways for a single servicing spaceship to clear up to 3 debris objects in a single flight.
Because of the necessity to identify many objects in various orbits within the range of a supporting spacecraft, Mike Lindsay, who works as the chief technology officer in charge of the Astroscale company, remarked during the event, “the multi-object dynamic debris removal mission is particularly tough.” “Because you only have more fuel on board and so long time until your spaceship aged, figuring out the best solutions will be critical to solving this challenge.”
Astroscale will collaborate with Rocket Lab and Te Pnaha tea–Auckland Space Institute on the study, which will look into both technological and policy challenges. This could include the utilization of Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft bus to assist in such missions. “We’re fascinated in their ability to clear trash with a lot of push and a lot of energy,” he said.
The project is part of the government’s aim to broaden its operations beyond its original and also most visible function as a supervisory authority for Rocket Lab in New Zealand. “What more could we accomplish with our regulatory processes, with the fact that we’re very rapid and imaginative for a team of five million people?” asked Paul Stocks, who works as the deputy secretary for labor, science, and entrepreneurship at MBIE and head of New Zealand Space Agency, at the occasion.
Other endeavors in both the space and terrestrial environments have included working with LeoLabs on the space tracking radars across the country and collaborating on MethaneSAT, a spacecraft that will detect methane emissions. “The concept of sustainability and environmental protection, whether on the ground or even in the skies, resonates well with New Zealanders,” he said. This new initiative “truly aligns with our goal for what we want our space agency and space sector to look like in the future.”
New Zealand is the most recent in a long line of governments with which Astroscale has collaborated on satellite servicing as well as active debris removal technology. Astroscale has a deal with the Japanese space agency (JAXA) for a flight to check an upper stage left in the orbit from a Japanese deployment, which will be followed by a mission to deorbit the stage. In 2023, a Rocket Lab Electron spacecraft will launch the mission.