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  • Satellite Evolution

Elestial to collaborate with University of Surrey on orbital platform concept study

Elestial Limited, an Oxfordshire-based start-up company, has signed up to the national SPRINT business support programme to collaborate with the University of Surrey on a new project focused on orbital debris removal. SPRINT funding will enable Elestial to conduct a new feasibility study with Surrey Space Centre's STAR LAB to evaluate its orbital platform concept and assess design requirements for suitable deployment in various orbital applications.

The SPRINT project aims to investigate the feasibility of putting a craft into orbit that would perform various tasks such as satellite inspection and maintenance, and debris removal. The study will support the development of a planned alpha prototype in-orbit demonstration by Elestial to be launched by June 2024, with a second, upgraded alpha unit to join the initial alpha 12 months later for extended in-service evaluations.

This project with the University of Surrey will be funded by the UK£5 million SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme.

Steve Pegg, COO at Elestial Limited said: “Elestial is interested in bringing innovations to space AI robotics, based on our expertise developed from the automotive sector. This project is a feasibility study to help us to evaluate the existing robotic ‘orbital platform’ concept and assess its design requirements for suitable deployment for various orbital applications such as active debris removal.

“We thank SPRINT for the opportunity to collaborate with the University of Surrey and its wider help in enabling UK business to leverage space expertise from academia and exploit commercial opportunities for the New Space era.”

Professor Yang Gao, Professor of Space Autonomous Systems at the University of Surrey added: “For this particular SPRINT project, Elestial will focus on the commercial aspects, sharing its expertise and experience in automotive design and technologies, and assessing the market opportunities for an in-orbit service platform. My dedicated team from the University of Surrey will plug this into a ‘space framework,’ informed by our academic and experimental know-how in space-related robotics and AI, enabling Elestial to progress its development plans towards an eventual alpha prototype.”

The SPRINT project with Elestial and the University of Surrey was funded with an innovation voucher from the UK Space Agency. Colin Baldwin, Head of Local Growth Strategy at the UK Space Agency, said: “One of the biggest challenges facing the space sector is orbital congestion and space debris. The UK is committed to ensuring the long-term sustainability of space, and we’re working with innovative companies across the country, backing projects such as this to ensure we all continue to benefit from the space enabled-services we rely on every day.”

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