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Rocket Lab Launches Astroscale’s Debris Inspection Spacecraft, ADRAS-J

By Mark Holmes | February 20, 2024

Rocket Lab launches the ADRAS-J mission for Astroscale on Feb. 18. Photo: Astroscale

Astroscale Japan has reached a milestone with the successful launch of its debris inspection demonstration satellite, ADRAS-J. Rocket Lab launched the satellite from Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand on Feb. 18.

The ADRAS-J spacecraft was selected by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for Phase I of its Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration program. Astroscale Japan is responsible for the design, manufacture, test, launch and operations of ADRAS-J.

Astroscale believes ADRAS-J is the first commercial debris inspection satellite.

The ADRAS-J mission aims to safely approach, characterize and survey the state of an existing piece of large debris through rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO). ADRAS-J is designed to rendezvous with a Japanese H2A upper stage rocket body, demonstrate proximity operations, and gather images to assess the rocket body’s movement and condition of the structure. The mission will demonstrate the most challenging RPO capabilities necessary for on-orbit services.

“The launch of ADRAS-J is a new chapter in Astroscale’s history as the first mission we have contracted for a space agency to successfully reach orbit. ADRAS-J is monumental for us as a company and for the entire sector as the mission will demonstrate the essential RPO capabilities for future on-orbit services,” Eddie Kato, president and managing director of Astroscale Japan, said in a statement.