Bartolomeo platform
Artist's concept of the Bartolomeo platform installed on the exterior of the Columbus module on the ISS. Credit: Airbus Defence and Space

SAN FRANCISCO — Launchspace Technologies Corp. announced a contract Oct. 28 with Airbus to test its Orbital Debris Collection and Spacecraft Shielding payload for 12 months on the International Space Station Bartolomeo platform.

For the test scheduled to begin in 2022, Launchspace plans to gather data from the Bartolomeo platform with Debris Impact Pads equipped with sensors to record the impact, force and orbital location of debris on the ISS. The demonstration is designed to pave the way for Launchspace to send Debris Collection Units into equatorial low-Earth orbits. The Debris Collection units are designed capture debris ranging in size from one to 50 millimeters, and to maneuver out of the way of satellites, according to an Oct. 28 news release.

The tiny pieces of debris Launchspace plans to collect are too small to track, which means satellites do not receive the warnings they would need to avoid them, according to the news release.

Airbus’ Bartolomeo platform, which is designed to host payloads and scientific experiments, was attached to the ISS Columbus Module earlier this year. Airbus, the European Space Agency, NASA and the ISS National Laboratory operate Bartolomeo through a partnership.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to demonstrate our technology on Bartolomeo,” Launchspace’s CEO John Baumann said in a statement. “The platform’s ‘front row’ position in the flight direction of the Space Station is perfectly suited for our purpose: Our sensors will be directly exposed to the space environment, which will give us highly realistic and accurate measurement results.”

Airbus also plans return the Debris Collection payload in the ArgUS Multi-Payload Carrier at the conclusion of the mission for post-flight inspection. The ArgUS Carrier is designed to accommodate multiple small payloads at one Bartolomeo site.

“The ArgUS Carrier is a key addition to our Bartolomeo Service,” Debra Facktor, head of U.S. Space Systems for Airbus U.S. Space and Defense, said in a statement. “It enables us to offer our unique Bartolomeo Service to customers that wish to fly smaller payloads, often on a limited budget.”

The Bartolomeo platform was installed on the ISS Columbus module in April. Bartolomeo can host as many as 12 external payloads ranging in mass from five to 450 kilograms.

As the platform evolves, Airbus plans to provide an optical data downlink capacity of one to two terabytes per day.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...