Astroscale stops orbital capture demo after detecting “anomalous spacecraft conditions”

Capitalism in space: Astroscale has halted an ambitious demonstration in-orbit of its magnetic capture technology when its engineers detected “anomalous spacecraft conditions.”

The demo involved a client satellite (posing as space junk) and a separate robot. Both were equipped with Astroscale’s magnetic capture device. A test in August had successfully separated the two units by a small distance, and then demonstrated that the magnetic capture device could grab the client satellite.

In the on-going but paused demo the robot was to separate, fly a distance away, and then use its autonomous programming to rendezvous with the client and then recapture it again. It successfully separated but that’s when the anomalies were detected. Engineers are now reviewing the data to see if they correct these issues and then proceed with the rest of the demo.

If successful Astroscale would demonstrate that their magnetic capture system works, thus giving them a strong selling point to have satellite companies buy it and install it on their satellites. Then, when the satellite was no longer needed Astroscale could send a robot up, capture it, and then de-orbit it safely.