As every nation, corporate unicorn, and 3D printing startup succumbs to space fever like it’s 1969, experts worry that the future of spaceflight may be in jeopardy.
The reason? There’s too much space trash.
Now, Astroscale, a Singapore-based developer of space debris removal services, has raised $50m in a new Series D to act as the head custodian of low-earth orbit.
This is the 4th round of funding raised by Astroscale, and brings their total funding to $102m.
The big bang of a new market
5.2k launches since 1957 have led to more than 23k tracked objects in orbit around earth, most of which no longer serve any purpose.
Only around 1.2k of those tracked objects are actual working satellites: The rest are pieces of dormant satellites, rocket bodies, boosters, and other human-made waste, splintered off into 750k pieces of high-velocity hailstones made of metal.
In other words, satellite operators and space agencies didn’t clean up their trash, but now Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos want to shoot rockets into clean space — thus, a business model was born.
Time to take out the space trash
Astroscale was founded in 2013, and since then it has opened a ground station and started work on an in-orbit ground control facility that will support advanced robotics activities in space to help deorbit small, non-working satellites.
The company is currently working on its first debris capture demonstration mission, scheduled to launch in 2020.