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Astroscale Teams up with JAXA for In-Space Refueling Project

By Mark Holmes | December 7, 2022

Astroscale’s ELSA-d spacecraft. Photo: Astroscale

Astroscale and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are looking to jointly create a new satellite refueling service, the two organizations announced Dec. 7. The activities will be done under the JAXA Space Innovation through Partnership and Co-creation (J-SPARC) office. The aim is to explore concepts for a fuel delivery service for one year. The mission concept will be for providing refueling service on orbit to satellites that are both prepared and unprepared to be refueled.

Astroscale Japan will study the feasibility of satellite refueling services and consider international collaboration with other Astroscale subsidiaries and partners, applying the rendezvous and proximity operations technology demonstrated in the ELSA-d mission, and robot arm and hand technology currently under development to the refueling work.

JAXA will study the technical feasibility of an on-orbit refueling system, examine ground test equipment for fuel transfer evaluation, and provide technical knowledge and advice based on the studies.

“On-orbit services are the sustainable infrastructure of the space economy. Over the past few years, awareness of the orbital environment and space sustainability has increased rapidly, and the demand for such services has grown significantly. We are pleased to be working with JAXA on refueling as a function of life extension, and by 2030, we plan to be able to make on-orbit services, including life extension, a routine basic infrastructure service,” Miki Ito, Managing Director, Astroscale Japan, said in a statement.