Singapore / Japan space-debris removal startup Astroscale raises $35M in series B

From the left: Shigeyuki Tsuchida (Senior Executive Officer, Innovation Network Corporation of Japan), Naoko Yamazaki (astronaut), Mitsunobu Okada (CEO, Astroscale)

See the original story in Japanese.

Astroscale, a Singapore- / Tokyo-based startup developing satellites to remove space debris from Earth’s orbit, announced today that it has fundraised up to $35 million from Japanese government-backed investment fund Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ) and Jafco in a series B round. INCJ will undertake an investment worth up to $30 million while Jafco will invest $5 million from their fund raised from other several investors. The latest funding round is followed by securing a $7.7 million series A round back in February of 2015 where Jafco, Mistletoe as well as angel investors like Kotaro Yamagishi (Gree co-founder), Kenji Kasahara (Mixi co-founder), Shuhei Morofuji (SMS founder) and Kiyoshi Nishikawa (Netage founder) paid in.

At the beginning of the press conference in Tokyo today, Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki made a keynote speech to elaborate the danger of space debris which she experienced through her space shuttle Discovery mission STS-131. Ground-based radar telescopes can detect the Earth’s debris down to 10 centimeters in size so that a space shuttle or the International Space Station (ISS) can be warned to avoid space debris. However, space debris are so fast (circling the Earth at a velocity of about 7.5 kilometers per second) that even tiny space debris smaller than 10 centimeters and larger than 1 centimeter, which cannot be detected with ground-based radar telescopes, may greatly damage rockets, artificial satellites and the ISS.

Receiving sponsorship from Japanese cutting tool manufacturer OSG (TSE:6136), Astroscale started developing a space debris detection satellite called IDEA OSG 1 last year, which aims to detect small space debris which cannot be detected with ground-based radar telescopes. To remove space debris, they will develop capturing satellites called ADRAS 01 which is to use lightweight but sticky adhesives to capture space debris which is relatively smaller and located at a relatively lower altitude, and then reenter the atmosphere to burn the captured debris out. For ones larger or located at a higher altitude, these will be decongested from a heavy traffic orbit rather than being removed because it will require higher energy consumption to move them. Capturing satellites are to incorporate advance technologies from Japanese ultra-microsatellite series Hodoyoshi, have an ion engine, hydrogen peroxide solution-based attitude control system and ESP (Electric Solid Propellent) thrusters.

From the left: Space-debris capturing satellite ADRAS 1, space-debris detection satellite IDEA OSG 1

Mitsunobu Okada, CEO of Astroscale, emphasized that his company has been receiving cooperation from 11 laboratories at 9 universities, two technical colleges, JAXA (Japan Aerospace eXploration Agency) and 50 other private-sector companies including machine manufacturing company Yuki Precision. Okada named a team of these people involved in this Space Sweepers project, and stated his aspiration that they all unite together to lead the project to success.

Astroscale plans to launch the first IDEA OSG 1 satellite from Russia between 2016 and early 2017. Following that, they will launch ADRAS 01 in the first half of 2018 to begin conducting proof of concept (PoC) tests. Represented by Japanese space startup Axelspace, the upcoming trend of satellite business will be shifting to satellite constellation, which allows users to observe many parts of the planet without timing constraints. Astroscale wants to monetize by acquiring these satellite business operators as clients and receiving entrusted tasks such as removing failed satellites or securing orbits.

See also:

The Space Sweepers team
The Space Sweepers team

Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy