Astroscale Raises $76m, To Develop Satellite Buses With Mitsubishi
Astroscale has raised a $76 million Series G round of capital and plans to jointly develop satellite buses with Mitsubishi Electric.
The space debris removal startup raised its most recent round of capital from the Development Bank of Japan, FEL Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsubishi Electric, Mitsubishi UFJ Bank, and Yusaku Maezawa. Astroscale has raised about $376 million since its founding.
The Tokyo-based company is attempting to develop spacecraft that can capture tumbling space debris, such as defunct satellites or spent upper-stage rocket bodies. It is also pitching companies on attaching docking plates to their satellites so should something go wrong Astroscale’s servicer spacecraft would have a grappling point from which to grab a broken satellite and push it into the atmosphere for burn up.
Mitsubishi Electric says it contributed $25 million in Astroscale’s Series G round. Separate from its investment, Mitsubishi says it plans to collaborate with Astroscale on development and manufacturing of satellite buses for Japanese national security constellations. The satellites are to feature Astroscale’s docking plate.
Constellations of small commercial communications satellites, like those developed by OneWeb and SpaceX’s Starlink, are rapidly being launched into orbit. Because each satellite is relatively small and inexpensive–as well as difficult to shoot down–militaries around the world are increasingly interested in the concept.
For example, the U.S. Space Force’s Space Development Agency has been developing its National Defense Space Architecture, a constellation of small satellites that includes communications, Earth observation, missile tracking and navigation satellites. For its part, the Japanese government has recently boosted its military spending, including on space activities, in light of what it sees as threats from China.
In addition to corporate and institutional investors, as part of the Series G round, Astroscale received a $23 million investment from Yusaku Maezawa, billionaire founder of Japanese clothing retailer Zozotown. Maezawa was also the first private Japanese citizen to visit the International Space Station in 2021 and came up with the idea for the “dear Moon project” lunar tourism mission, a civilian mission to fly around the Moon on a SpaceX Starship.