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Rocket Lab USA, Inc., a global leader in launch services and space systems, announced it has signed a dedicated launch contract with Astroscale Japan Inc., a subsidiary of Astroscale Holdings Inc., a market leader in satellite servicing and long-term orbital sustainability. Scheduled for lift-off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in 2023, the Electron rocket will launch the Active Debris Removal by Astroscale-Japan (ADRAS-J) satellite, which has been selected by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for Phase I of its Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration Project (CRD2), one of the world’s first technology demonstrations of removing large-scale debris from orbit.
Once deployed to a precise orbit by Electron’s Kick Stage, the ADRAS-J satellite is designed to rendezvous with a piece of orbital debris, a long-abandoned upper stage rocket body. ADRAS-J aims to demonstrate proximity operations and obtain images of the rocket body, delivering observational data to better understand the debris environment. A planned second phase of the mission, which has yet to be competed, intends to demonstrate the de-orbit of the debris.
“The ability to actively remove satellites and debris from orbit at the end of their operational life will likely play a key role in ensuring a sustainable space environment for the future, so we’re delighted to enable Astroscale to demonstrate new and innovative solutions in this field,” said Rocket Lab Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Peter Beck. “Rendezvousing with a piece of debris on orbit, travelling at around 27,000 km per hour, is a highly complex task that requires absolute precision when it comes to orbital deployment. Electron’s Kick Stage has demonstrated this precision across 18 missions, providing in-space transportation to place our customers’ satellites exactly where they need to go.”
“Reliable and commercially viable launch vehicles like Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket enable frequent and flexible access to space, allowing us to advance our on-orbit services which are fundamental to the growth of the space infrastructure and economy,” said Nobu Okada, Founder and CEO of Astroscale. “Rocket Lab and Astroscale have become leaders in our respective markets and I am thrilled to collaborate on ADRAS-J, a groundbreaking mission that will shape the technologies and policies needed to drive space sustainability forward.”