Artist rendering of Astroscale U.S. life-extension platform. Credit: Astroscale U.S. Inc.

WASHINGTON — Astroscale announced June 3 it is acquiring the intellectual property of the satellite-servicing company Effective Space Solutions. The move positions Astroscale’s U.S. subsidiary to become a direct competitor to Northrop Grumman in the geostationary satellite servicing market.

Astroscale is a private orbital debris removal company headquartered in Tokyo. The agreement with Effective Space Solutions was signed by Astroscale U.S. Inc., based in Denver.

Effective Space Solutions, located in Israel, developed a satellite servicing vehicle known as Space Drone which is not yet in operation. Astroscale is acquiring the intellectual property associated with Space Drone and is hiring engineers and executives from the program.

Arie Halsband, founder and CEO of Effective Space Solutions, will serve as managing director of Astroscale Israel in Tel Aviv.

The Space Drone will evolve into an Astroscale servicing platform, Ron Lopez, president and managing director of Astroscale U.S., told SpaceNews.

“It will be a new program and will be called something else,” he said. “We will integrate the payload in the United States and deliver that service from the U.S.”

Effective Space Solutions has been in discussions with potential undisclosed customers for Space Drone services. Astroscale has had “preliminary meetings with those customers and they remain interested,” said Lopez.

The closing of the transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals.

Lopez said Astroscale is on a path to become a provider of on-orbit services from low Earth to geostationary orbits.

Astroscale later this year plans to launch a self-funded mission to low Earth orbit — called End-of-Life Service by Astroscale Demonstration (ELSA-D) — to test debris removal technologies. The company in February was selected as the commercial partner of Japan’s JAXA space agency for a project to develop an inspector satellite to identify upper stage rocket bodies.

Market analysts project that life extension and other on-orbit satellite services will generate more than $4 billion in revenues by 2028. With GEO satellites costing upwards of $200 million, the thinking is that servicing, repairing or upgrading them will become a viable option instead of replacement.

Ahead of entering the GEO satellite servicing market, Astroscale Holdings on May 18 announced a Series E funding round. I-NET CORP., a Japanese data center provider, became the first investor in this new round. Astroscale raised a total of $140 million in its previous four funding rounds.

Astroscale’s GEO servicing platform would compete with Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV).

Lopez said the MEV is “blazing new trails” and that that there is room in the market for additional players. “We see strong commercial and U.S. government demand,” he said.

The U.S. Defense Department could be a future buyer of services, he said. “We have heard they are interested in exploring the idea of extending the service life of its GEO satellites. When you’re faced with tough budgetary decisions, I think it only makes sense to entertain these kinds of tradeoffs.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...