Mitsubishi Makes Strategic Investment in Astroscale’s $76 Million Funding Round

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TAMPA, Florida. Astroscale said on Feb. 27 it had raised $76 million from investors, including satellite maker Mitsubishi Electric, which plans to add docking plates to Japan’s national security spacecraft to make them compatible with the debris removal service.

Japan-based Astroscale has raised more than $376 million since it was founded a decade ago for the company, which aims to make on-orbit maintenance routine by 2030.

The funds will “significantly support the further development of innovative technologies, global expansion and increased capacity to meet growing demand,” Astroscale CEO and founder Nobu Okada said in a statement.

Mitsubishi Electric has invested $25 million in the G Series.

The companies agreed to jointly design and build satellite chassis with standardized magnetic plates that maintenance services could use to more easily move or de-orbit them after their missions.

They did not provide more detailed information about the cooperation.

Astroscale demonstrated how its services could dock on a docking pad in low Earth orbit (LEO) in 2021 during capture and release tests as part of the ELSA-d, or End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-demonstration.

Although the 175-kilogram servicer lost half its engines last year, Astroscale says ELSA-d is still set to reach its climax when the servicer leaves orbit for its 17-kilogram client craft.

Astroscale spokesman Dave Hebert said the venture “will have more to share in the coming months” about the timeframe for ELSA-d’s descent from orbit.

Increase in funding

Other new investors included billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who became the first private Japanese citizen to visit the International Space Station in December 2021 after launching on a Russian Soyuz rocket.

Maezawa said he invested $23 million in Astroscale’s Series G round to help “protect the future of space travel” from the growing threat of space debris as orbits become increasingly crowded.

The billionaire plans to travel around the moon with an eclectic group of people during the upcoming launch of the SpaceX Starship, which has yet to make its first orbital launch.

Other investors in the round were also from Japan, including parent company Mitsubishi Electric, investment bank Mitsubishi UFJ, finance company FEL Corporation and the state-owned Development Bank of Japan.

Main stages of on-orbit maintenance

Astroscale next plans to use the spacecraft, which will launch on Rocket Lab Electron earlier this year, to inspect the discarded upper stage of Japan’s H2-A rocket.

Under contract from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Active Debris Removal by Astroscale-Japan (ADRAS-J) will attempt to demonstrate remote operations and acquire images of the debris.

Astroscale is competing for the second phase of this JAXA debris removal program with a service spacecraft capable of capturing an object without a docking pad.

Next year, Astroscale plans to remove the defunct, yet-to-be-announced satellite from LEO as part of the End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-multiple, or ELSA-m, mission in partnership with UK operator OneWeb and Space. agencies of Great Britain and Europe.

As part of this mission, ELSA-m will likely attempt to remove the OneWeb satellite. An Astroscale executive said last year that most satellites in the OneWeb group are equipped with compatible docking stations.

As part of efforts to increase the number of these missions, Astroscale said it has grown its team by more than 60% since its $109 million Series F funding round in late 2021 to more than 400 people.

Astroscale has facilities in the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel and plans to open global headquarters in Tokyo, Japan later this year.

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