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Seraphim Space Investment Trust’s $12.5m investment in Astroscale

Written by: Christiana Okolie

Seraphim Space Investment Trust plc (LSE: SSIT), the world’s first listed fund focused on SpaceTech, announces that it has made a new $12.5m investment into Astroscale Holdings Inc., the market leader in satellite servicing and long-term orbital sustainability across all orbits. Astroscale closed a $109m series F round which was led by THE FUND Limited Partnership in Japan and backed by a group of investors including Seraphim Space, Japan Growth Capital Investment Corporation and AXA Life Insurance Co. Ltd.

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Japan, Astroscale is a truly international business with operational subsidiaries in the UK, US, Israel and Singapore and a growing team of over 250 people. In addition to developing technology, Astroscale works closely with government and policymakers across the globe to ensure licensing and regulation is put in place that will foster a sustainable environment.

Due to recent trends in the cost of access to space and miniaturised hardware, many well-funded businesses are expecting to launch more satellites into space in the next few years than have ever been launched before. This could lead to further proliferation of artificial debris that poses a threat on the sustainability of commercial operations in space and the future space economy.

Current mitigation measures for low earth orbit space debris are suboptimal and include a long-standing guideline for deorbiting satellites within 25 years. Satellites currently have a small failure rate, but with thousands of satellites being launched each year, the risk posed by hundreds of dead satellites to operating spacecrafts is increasing.

Astroscale is addressing the issues by offering on-orbit services used to transport, inspect, extend the life of and remove satellites in space to provide assurance and continuation of service for customers.

There is currently no binding international treaty regarding the mitigation of space debris. However, national licensing bodies have started to place stricter requirements on operators. In addition, several government funded awards that support debris mitigation are underway including a public-private partnership led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and OneWeb, with Astroscale selected to advance its end-of-life technology and capabilities towards a commercial service offering by 2024. OneWeb has installed a docking mechanism on 208 of its 288 satellites in orbit, preparing them for future on-orbit services from Astroscale. Other planned Astroscale missions will demonstrate related service capabilities in the fields of in situ space situational awareness, active debris removal and life extension. Astroscale was also selected as commercial partner by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for Phase I of its debris removal project with the goal to remove an upper stage rocket body from orbit.

Furthermore, operators are forming voluntary alliances and starting to “self-regulate”. As recently as November 2021, 10 companies including Astroscale, Eutelsat, Arianespace and Planet have signed the Net Zero Space Declaration committing them to implement concrete measures to reduce the amount of space debris by 2030. Astroscale also recently released its docking plate that will ultimately ‘future proof’ satellites in case of need for removal due to failure, or at end of life or to provide future on-orbit servicing. The company is advocating for docking plates to become a standard fitment on all future low Earth orbit satellites.

Will Whitehorn, Chair Seraphim Space Investment Trust PLC, commented: “This investment is an example of the Company’s commitment to ESG and impactful investment. Astroscale also represents the Company’s first investment in Asia, highlighting the global nature of our strategy to invest in emerging category leaders.”

Mark Boggett, CEO of Seraphim Space (Manager) LLP, commented: “The long-term sustainable health of the space sector is becoming ever more important with tens of thousands of satellite launches planned in the coming years. Astroscale is already the category leader in the global on-orbit servicing market. Its founder and CEO Nobu Okada is credited worldwide as a key figure in galvanising the space industry into action. The ball is now firmly rolling on regulation and self-regulation to protect the space environment. We believe that now is the optimum time to invest into this emerging market that will be worth $billions over the coming decades.”

Nobu Okada, Founder and CEO Astroscale, commented: “The G7 pledge on space sustainability and the Paris Peace Forum’s “Net Zero Space” Declaration are part of a growing global call to take urgent action to reduce orbital debris and build a sustainable foundation for the growth of space. Astroscale exists to answer this call and, since our inception in 2013, we have dedicated ourselves to solving the technological, economic and policy challenges of satellite servicing to build this sustainable foundation for a thriving space ecosystem. Seraphim Space’s investment proves Astroscale’s potential to drive the on-orbit servicing sector with first-mover advantages and that investors globally acknowledge the tremendous potential for on-orbit servicing. This latest round of funding will dramatically accelerate our ability to make on-orbit servicing routine by 2030 and will allow us to pioneer safe and cost-effective space capabilities across the servicing ecosystem, expand regional facilities for mass production and support global hiring.”