Astrium and space debris: pioneering space solutions for a sustainable space

24 April 2013

  • Astrium has a strong heritage in studies for space missions related to on-orbit servicing and for satellite services that can support active debris removal for future missions.
  • Astrium is also involved in ESA’s Space Situational Awareness and in EU FP7 spacecraft resilience studies.
  • Astrium will be presenting several innovative concepts during ESA’s Space Debris conference in Darmstadt from April 22nd to April 25th 2013.
  • Media can download footage on key Astrium space debris solutions on

Astrium, Europe’s leading space technology company, is committed to developing appropriate technologies to mitigate and remediate space debris issues to support our customers and move towards a sustainable space environment.

Astrium, as prime contractor of the Ariane 5 launcher, the automated space vehicle ATV and many science, telecommunications and Earth observation satellites as well as space robotics can provide technical expertise, assets and competences to investigate a global set of potential solutions and related enabling technologies.

Astrium is contributing in four key areas by participating in Space Agencies or European Commission (EC) programmes as well as investing its own Research & Technology funds:
•Resilience & Mitigation, by adapting our designs to reduce the vulnerability of our spacecraft against small debris (<10 cm) and offering Post Mission Disposal (PMD) capabilities for launchers, upper stages and satellites.

Spacecraft resilience should be increased at architecture level, through shielding solutions, and proposing new design rules and standards.

PMD will be offered for Ariane 5 ME, and is available on satellites such as SPOT 6 and 7.
•Orbital Activities, by developing and maturing the concepts that will be needed for safe Active Debris Removal from space (for large objects) and from the ground (smaller items).

Enabling technologies are being studied, with strong support from our customers (space agencies and EC). These will require further developments and commitments.
•Space Situational Awareness, by participating in the various national and European projects that are promoting the creation of solutions to monitor the different orbits, Space Weather and Near Earth Objects.

Should a pan-European system be created, Astrium will readily contribute with its expertise.
•Space Traffic Management, by developing tools and training to support collision avoidance manoeuvres for commercial and some institutional operators.


Astrium is leading several studies contracted by space agencies:
•DEOS. Astrium is the prime contractor for the definition phase of the DEOS (German orbital servicing mission) project. The DEOS project will, for the first time, demonstrate technologies for the controlled in-orbit disposal of a defective satellite. In addition, DEOS will practise how to complete maintenance tasks – refuelling in particular – that will extend the service life of satellites. DEOS consists of two satellites, a “client” and a “servicer”. The client acts as the satellite requiring maintenance or disposal. The servicer carries out the necessary work on the client. The two satellites will be launched together and brought into orbit at a height of 550 kilometres. According to current planning, DEOS will be ready for launch in 2018.

Testing of disposal and maintenance on a client satellite specially launched for this purpose, as opposed to tests on old existing satellites, means that a wide variety of defects can be simulated. This enables DEOS to demonstrate a complete range of relevant tasks, right up to capturing a satellite that is spinning out of control. Experiments will be performed in an increasing order of difficulty.

The DEOS project will be carried out by DLR Space Administration with funding from the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi).
•The CNES OTV project is a preliminary study with Astrium as prime contractor. Its key mission is to assess different solutions and set out the process (planning, roadmap, scale of costs, etc) for the capture and destruction of space debris.
•In the ESA Space Situational Awareness (SSA) preliminary program, Astrium is leading and participating in various studies, namely the Architecture phase 0 (CO II) that will deliver a first design of a pan-European system, and space weather services and future missions (SN I and SN II).


The EC FP 7 collaborative studies:
•ReVus: reducing the vulnerability of spacecraft to small debris by proposing improved shielding solutions and changes to orbital architecture. In addition offering a deorbiting capability after mission sucess, and proposing resilience solutions.
•CleanSpace: paving the way to building a laser-based space debris removal system.


Astrium has also been developing several innovative concepts with its own resources, enabling key technologies to support debris removal missions:

•Net capture system: safely grasping a piece of debris using a specially designed net that has been extensively tested inside a Zero G aircraft
•Harpoon capture system: safely attaching to a piece of debris with a harpoon which has been extensively demonstrated on the ground and does not create any further debris
•Passive de-orbiter based on a gossamer drag augmentation structure and deployable sails
•Vision Based Navigation techniques that will enable the secure approach, rendezvous and capture of non-cooperative debris



About Astrium


Together, pioneering excellence


Astrium is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and the third in the world. It is the only global company that covers the full range of civil and defence space systems, equipment and services.


In 2012, Astrium had a turnover over €5.8 billion and 18,000 employees worldwide.

Its three business units are: Astrium Space Transportation, the European prime contractor for launchers, orbital systems and space exploration; Astrium Satellites, a leading provider of satellite system solutions, including spacecraft, ground segments, payloads and equipments; Astrium Services, the Space services partner for critical missions, providing comprehensive fixed and mobile solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, and bespoke geo-information services, worldwide.


Astrium is a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2012, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of €56.5 billion and employed a workforce of over 140,000.

Press contacts:

Jeremy Close
Media Relations UK
Astrium United Kingdom
Tel.: +44 1 438 77 3872
Gregory Gavroy
Astrium France
Media Relations France
Tel.: +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32
Ralph Heinrich
Media Relations Germany
Airbus Defence and Space Germany
Tel.: +49 89 60 73 39 71
Fax: +49 89 60 78 53 39
Francisco Lechon
Media Relations Spain
Airbus Defence and Space Spain
Tel.: +34 91 5 86 37 41
Fax: +34 91 5 86 37 82


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