Japanese orbital debris removal firm Astroscale is set to launch its test mission to remove space debris in March 2021.

The End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-demonstration (ELSA-d) mission will launch on a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan Baikonur Cosmodrome, said the firm.

ELSA-d is claimed to be the first mission to display the removal of non-operational objects such as satellites populating the low-Earth orbit (LEO) and the necessary capabilities for such an operation.

This mission will use a 175kg servicer and 17kg client, which will be launched together.

The servicer features proximity rendezvous technologies and a magnetic capture mechanism. It will continuously perform release and dock with the client, which has been equipped with a ferromagnetic docking plate.

This mission adheres to Astroscale’s vision of safe and sustainable space and is considered a major step in the direction of future on-orbit services.

ELSA-d project manager Seita Iizuka said: “The ELSA-d programme demonstrates  complex and innovative capabilities that will support satellite operators in realizing options for their post-mission disposal strategies and establish Astroscale as a global leader in the on-orbit servicing market.”

Using the In-Orbit Servicing Control Centre National Facility (IOCC), Astroscale will operate ELSA-d out of the UK.

Developed by a team led by Astroscale for satellite servicing missions, the IOCC is located at the Satellite Applications Catapult in Harwell, Oxfordshire.

Astroscale founder and CEO Nobu Okada said: “We’re on the brink of a new chapter in on-orbit servicing, and Astroscale is eager to take this important next step in demonstrating technical innovation, advancing the discussion on international policies and proving the business case.”

Meanwhile, the firm is also preparing for the Phase I of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration (CRD2) project. It is scheduled to launch in early 2023.

In 2018, Astroscale secured $50m in funding as part of a Series D financial round led by Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ).