RUAG Space provides GNSS-equipped computer for space debris removal

June 30, 2021  - By
The ELSA-d satellite servicer and client launched March 2021, the team prepares to demonstrate the servicer’s technology and capability to remove the Client debris from this summer. (Image: Astroscale)

Launched in March, the ELSA-d satellite will demonstrate space-debris removal this summer. (Image: Astroscale)

RUAG Space has provided its GNSS-equipped computer to command Astroscale UK‘s ELSA-M Servicer, a spacecraft designed to remove space debris.

Space debris is a growing concern for the space industry. End-of-life services by Astroscale (ELSA) — a spacecraft decommissioning service for satellite operators — will progress to a commercialization phase this year with the ELSA-M. The M stands for multi-client servicer.

The Astroscale ELSA-M spacecraft is designed to de-orbit multiple retired satellites in low Earth orbit, which will then burn up on atmospheric re-entry.

“The ELSA-M servicer will be optimized to remove multiple retired satellites from low-Earth orbit in a single mission,” said John Auburn, managing director of Astroscale UK and group chief commercial officer. The ELSA-M servicer is specifically designed for servicing constellation satellites, such as those launched by GNSS authorities or by the global satellite communications network OneWeb.

The computer from RUAG Space will include a GNSS receiver and interface unit. Based on RUAG Space’s constellation On Board Computer (cOBC), the computer controls the ELSA-M spacecraft, enabling repeated multi-debris removal maneuvers and management of equipment, reaction wheels and magnetometers linked to it. The cOBC is designed to be a flexible off-the-shelf computer with high integration and short lead time, enabling high-volume manufacturing.

The computer system developed in partnership with RUAG Space — with software from Astroscale and hardware from RUAG Space — will support the rendezvous between Astroscale’s servicer spacecraft and the client spacecraft, a retired or defunct satellite.

The GNSS receiver in the RUAG Space Computer is entirely from RUAG Space, including the NavRIX Integral antenna, which is integrated into the computer. The single-frequency GNSS receiver is capable of processing GPS and Galileo signals and offers several real-time positioning performance options ranging from 20-m 3D rms (root mean square) to better than 1-m 3D rms.

Photo: RUAG Space

Photo: RUAG Space

Specs of the cOBC’s GNSS receiver

  • Tracks GPS L1 C/A or Galileo L1B / L1C signals and provides position, velocity and time
  • Accuracy down to a maximum error of 3.5 m RMS 3D with use of dynamic filtering
  • Pulse per second (PPS) time error < 1 μs RMS
  • Operation with or without external LNA

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.