Press Release

Developing the “brains” behind Astroscale’s debris removal spacecraft

By SpaceRef Editor
June 25, 2021
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Astroscale UK has been working in partnership with RUAG Space to develop the “brains”, based on RUAG Space’s constellation On Board Computer (cOBC), to command Astroscale’s space debris removing ELSA-M Servicer spacecraft.


The removal of space debris (e.g. defunct satellites) is a growing concern for the space industry. Astroscale is pioneering the End-of-Life Services by Astroscale (ELSA), a spacecraft decommissioning service for satellite operators that is progressing into a new commercialisation phase this year with ELSA-M.


ELSA-M will remove multiple satellites

M stands for multi-client servicer. “The ELSA-M servicer will be optimised to remove multiple retired satellites from low Earth orbit in a single mission,” explains John Auburn, Managing Director of Astroscale UK and Group Chief Commercial Officer. Astroscale’s ELSA-M servicer is specifically designed for the servicing of constellation satellites, such as those launched by the global satellite communications network OneWeb.


New computer for growing ‘New Space’ market

For these kinds of innovative missions, a high performing “brain” (On Board Computer) is needed. The computer from RUAG Space will include a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver and interface unit, all in one box. Once in orbit the computer controls the ELSA-M spacecraft, enabling repeated multi-debris removal manoeuvers and management of equipment, reaction wheels and magnetometers linked to it. 


Flexible Off-The-Shelf computer

“We have developed this new computer specifically for the growing ‘New Space’ market,” says Anders Linder, Senior Vice President Electronics at RUAG Space, a leading supplier to the space industry. “Astroscale’s trust in us shows that we have a highly competitive product that meets the demands of this emerging debris removal market.” And he adds: “Our cost-effective computer with its high-quality performance is attractive for many other applications in the New Space area.” The cOBC is designed to be a very flexible Off-The-Shelf computer with high integration, short lead times and enabling high volume manufacturing.


Developing the brains behind the complex rendezvous

The computer system developed in partnership with RUAG Space – with the software from Astroscale and the hardware from RUAG Space – will support the rendezvous between Astroscale’s servicer spacecraft and the client spacecraft, a retired or defunct satellite. “The rendezvous operations are critical, requiring precision robotics technology and on-board systems to maneuver our Servicer and successfully capture our Client spacecraft.” adds John Auburn.


“Highly competent solution”

“The cOBC system from RUAG Space offers a highly competent solution, allowing the Astroscale team to concentrate many different functions in one place, which greatly simplifies our systems architecture. We also benefit from RUAG Space’s knowledge of the New Space and constellation market,” explains John Auburn.


Astroscale: Market leader in satellite servicing

Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”) is the market leader in satellite servicing and long-term orbital sustainability across all orbits. Founded in 2013, Astroscale is developing sustainable space systems and plans to mitigate the growing and hazardous build-up of debris in space. Astroscale Ltd. (“Astroscale UK”), the UK subsidiary of Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”) has been defining the business case for debris removal services since 2017, leading the Mission Operations and commercialisation of the company’s End-of-Life services, including developing the ELSA-M multi-client service development. Headquartered in Japan, Astroscale also has international subsidiaries in the United States and Israel. To find out more, visit


RUAG Space: leading supplier to the space industry

RUAG Space is the leading supplier to the space industry in Europe, and has a growing presence in the United States. Around 1,300 employees across six countries (Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Germany, USA and Finland) develop and manufacture products for satellites and launch vehicles—for both the institutional and commercial space market. RUAG Space is part of RUAG International, a Swiss technology group, which is divided into four divisions: Space, Aerostructures, MRO International and Ammotec. Visit, or view our RUAG Space product portfolio video:


To learn more about the End-of-Life services of Astroscale, visit:


To learn more about the “constellation On Board Computer” from RUAG Space, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.