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ADRAS-J Completes Rendezvous and Initiates Proximity Approach

ADRAS-J satellite. Credit: Astroscale

Ibadan, 15 April 2024. – Astroscale Japan Inc. has announced that its commercial debris inspection demonstration satellite, Active Debris Removal by Astroscale-Japan (ADRAS-J), has completed the rendezvous phase of its mission and the beginning of the proximity approach. This success is underscored by starting Angles-Only Navigation, a navigation method to estimate relative position and velocity through the servicer’s onboard cameras.

During the rendezvous phase, ADRAS-J initiated its approach through several orbit-raising maneuvers at a distance of thousands of kilometers from the client rocket’s upper stage. The upper stage, which launched in 2009, is an unprepared object that does not provide any GPS data on its own, meaning the precise location necessary for an RPO mission is not available.

Based on the limited information available from ground-based observations, the Astroscale operations teams in Japan and the United Kingdom successfully maneuvered the ADRAS-J servicer within several hundred kilometers of the rocket’s upper stage. ADRAS-J’s visual camera then successfully detected the client, processing the images using Astroscale-developed Angles-Only Navigation algorithms.

ADRAS-J will subsequently conduct a safe approach to the client with the help of the onboard rendezvous payload sensors, capturing crucial relative navigation information, such as distance and attitude. The seamless coordination and switching between these sensors are paramount to the mission’s success, akin to transitioning from a telescope to binoculars to a magnifying glass while in a fast-moving vehicle.

Speaking on the mission, Eijiro Atarashi, ADRAS-J Project Manager at Astroscale Japan, said, “Starting Angles Only Navigation is a huge milestone for the ADRAS-J mission, highlighting the expertise and teamwork among Astroscale teams in Japan, the UK, and the U.S. This brings us one step closer to further advancing our RPO capabilities and our understanding of space debris, reinforcing our commitment to the sustainable development of space.

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