Astroscale’s space junk inspection satellite snaps a close-up photo of a discarded rocket stage | Space

Astroscale’s space junk observation satellite has moved within striking distance to a discarded rocket upper stage that’s been floating around Earth for nearly 20 years, taking close-up pictures — preliminary to actually deorbiting the object in a future mission.

The company released an image captured by its satellite from a distance of just 50 meters (164 feet) on June 14, the most recent milestone in an ambitious program that aims to eventually remove debris from orbit. During this first phase of the campaign, the Active Debris Removal by Astroscale-Japan (ADRAS-J) satellite is demonstrating safe approach maneuvers, called rendezvous and proximity operations, with the target object, as well as obtaining images and other data about it.

The 150-kilogram ADRAS-J was selected by the Japanese national space agency for this first phase of its Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration Project (CRD2) back in 2020. Astroscale was also selected for the second phase of the project, a contract that was announced in April, in which the object will be grappled and deorbited.

ADRAS-J launched on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket in February. Since then, it has been slowly moving closer and closer to the discarded object — an 11-meter-long upper stage from a Japanese H-IIA rocket that ended up in low Earth orbit after launching in 2009. Notably, the rocket stage does not…

Source techcrunch.com

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