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Japanese space debris removal startup Astroscale secures $109M funding

Astroscale
Image credits: Astroscale

Space is vast and a lot is still unknown to us. Apparently, the sector is welcoming more players and satellites for further discovery. Currently, thousands of satellites are being launched and there is a higher risk of hundreds of dead satellites in space. This could exacerbate the mass of debris in space orbiting around our planet.

Astroscale, a Japanese space startup intends to make the space safe and sustainable for future generations. The company specialises in on-orbit servicing, which will help reduce space debris and extend the life of satellites, thereby making the space tech and orbital businesses more sustainable.

Largest investment round

In a recent development, Astroscale has secured $109 million funding in a Series F round led by Japan’s THE FUND alongside Seraphim Space and many others. This is the largest funding round ever in the company’s history. With this round, the overall investment raised by Astroscale accounts for $300 million.

Given that Seraphim Space, the world’s first listed fund that focuses on space technologies, has pumped funds into Astroscale, it highlights the market opportunity for on-orbit servicing and the development of multiple projects.

It was announced that Astroscale will use the fresh funds to help scale and accelerate its ability to carry out an on-orbit servicing routine by the year 2030. Also, the investment will let the company pioneer cost-effective and safe space capabilities, expand mass production facilities in Japan, the UK and US, and global growth.

Space debris removal startup

Space debris is one of the major global challenges that space tech businesses are facing. As space debris is a growing threat, the Japanese space startup was founded by Nobu Okada in 2013 to solve the issue. It works on end-of-life management technologies for satellites, life extension programs for satellites that are active, and removal of existing debris. It intends to make satellites useful beyond their actual scheduled service life.

Big year for Astroscale

2021 has been a great year for Astroscale as the company demonstrated its end-of-life services technology successfully in August. Also, it is progressing with its plan to show a demon of its orbital debris removal product for JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) in early 2022.

These demos follow the company’s acquisition of Effective Space Solutions in 2020. The company focuses on servicing the huge geostationary satellites providing key communications infrastructure.

Partnership with OneWeb

OneWeb is looking out for potential suppliers to address satellite de-orbiting. The company has deployed 358 satellites via 11 launches and has witnessed failure only once to date. Now, it is considering removing the failed satellite from its low earth orbit. For this purpose, the company has partnered with the debris-removal startup Astroscale under the Sunrise program of ESA. Astroscale was granted funding in May this year to demonstrate its space junk removal technology.

Space debris removal is booming

As space debris is posed to be a huge threat, there are several companies that are specialising in this industry. The crowded segment has the Scottish firm Skyrora, which has already started conducting trials of its space debris removal tech. There is US-based OrbitGuardians, which is a commercial provider of such services. Also, ClearSpace, a Swiss EPFL Space Center spin-off specialises in developing technologies to remove derelict and unresponsive satellites from space.

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