The Prince of Wales Visits Astroscale Ltd, Harwell Innovation Centre and The UK Atomic Energy Authority

The Prince of Wales talks to students during a visit to open Aberystwyth University's new School of Veterinary Science at Aberystwyth University, Penglais, Aberystwyth in Ceredigion, Wales. December 10, 2021.



Monday 31st January 2022 

Engagement 1

The Prince of Wales will visit Astroscale Ltd to learn of their ground-breaking ELSA-d space mission to demonstrate the removal of a replica defunct satellite from low Earth orbit. The ELSA-d (End-of-life Services by Astroscale demonstration) spacecraft are currently controlled by the Astroscale Mission Operations & Ground Segment team at National In-orbit Servicing Control Centre, a facility developed by Astroscale. His Royal Highness will also join a high level meeting to hear about the UK’s efforts to tackle space sustainability and ensure the responsible use of space. 

On arrival HRH will be met by the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire and Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency and John Auburn, Managing Director Astroscale Ltd alongwith Sanjay Bhandari, Chair of the Board, Satellite Applications Catapult. 

HRH will then move to the In-Orbit Servicing Control Centre, home of ELSA-d Mission Control activities. HRH will be given a brief introduction of the work of the company and meet Mr Al Colebourn, Head of Spacecraft Operations before viewing a demonstration of the ELSA-d mission operations activities which are currently in-orbit. This will be shown via a large plasma screen video wall followed by a brief demonstration of mission control tools including a half size model of the ESLA-d spacecraft. 

HRH will learn how Astroscale’s objectives are to provide a debris removal service, after further demonstration manoeuvres with ELSA-d and other orbital missions. HRH will also meet members of the Mission Control team. 

HRH will then join a high-level meeting comprised of government and industry leaders including Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency and leaders from the space industry, including Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb and Sanjay Bhandari, Chair of the Board at Satellite Applications Catapult. HRH will hear about the UK’s space sustainability agenda and plans that are underway to prevent further pollution of the space environment. 

Astroscale is the first private company with a vision for the safe and sustainable development of space for the benefit of future generations, and the only company solely dedicated to in-orbit servicing across all orbits. 

Orbital congestion and space debris, remains a significant global challenge with an estimated 36,500 debris objects greater than 10cm already in space. Objects can stay in orbit for hundreds of years and present a danger to the rapidly increasing number of satellites which we are all dependent on for global communications, earth observation and infrastructure. 

Astroscale also works to support governments and commercial companies to encourage the safe and sustainable use of space and develop their commitment to supporting the removal of space debris. Astroscale’s headquarters are in Japan and the company has an international presence with subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, and Singapore. The company is based at Harwell Innovation Centre and has rapidly grown from 3 to 85 employees since 2017. 

Astroscale has recently been awarded funding from the European Space Agency’s Space Safety programme to develop the technology to remove multiple retired satellites in a single mission from space. This new project will build on other Astroscale missions including ELSA-d (End of life Services by Astroscale) which is already in orbit and comprising a spacecraft services demonstrating debris capture technology through repeated docking and releasing of a ‘client’ satellite. Astroscale are looking to scale up this technology in 2024. 

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Space Sustainability 

Space technology is also increasingly valuable to the UK economy. The sector is a huge economic success story employing over 45,000 people in highly skilled jobs – from space scientists and researchers to engineers and satellite manufactures. The UK’s recent National Space Strategy outlines long-term plans to grow the UK space sector and consolidate the UK’s role as a science and technology superpower. Minister Freeman and Paul Bate together work to define this strategy and deliver on the UK’s commitments across a number of priority areas, including space sustainability. 

This group will consider whether we should consider the space environment as an extension of the earth’s environment and protect the safety and sustainability of space for the benefit of future space operations and future generations. They will discuss existing and new opportunities to further their efforts on space sustainability in the UK, and internationally. 

Engagement 2

The Prince of Wales will visit the UK Atomic Energy Authority based at Culham Science Centre. To see their research work in producing an environmental and sustainable form of energy. UKAEA, Culham Science Centre, Abingdon OX14 3EB. 

On arrival at UKAEA, HRH will be met by Professor David Gann, Chair (UKAEA) and Professor Ian Chapman CEO, UKAEA. 

HRH will then be given a brief overview of fusion, before proceeding to the Joint European Torus (JET) Control Room where he will meet senior staff from EUROfusion (the European organisation that carries out research on JET) and watches a video of a JET fusion test. 

HRH will then move to the Remote Handling Control Room where he will meet engineers controlling a robot arm that they use to carry out work inside JET before moving to the large ‘Torus Hall’ where the actual JET experimental fusion machine is housed. As HRH walks around the fusion machine, he will meet Dr Joe Milnes, Operations Manager. 

HRH will then meet people associated with the research including scientists, engineers, funders and partners of JET. 

Fusion in Brief 

The race is on to find new, environmentally sustainable forms of energy to meet the aspirations of a growing world population. By 2050, the planet could be using twice as much electricity compared to today. More people and better living standards will lead to a big rise in energy consumption. 

The UK Atomic Energy Authority manages the UK fusion programme with a mission to demonstrate that fusion is possible, is practical both in scale and cost, and to stimulate a new supply chain. 

UKAEA is working on bringing the ideas together that power source of the stars down to Earth which could give us low-carbon energy for millennia to come. Fusion could become a major part of the world’s energy supply during the second half of this century. To achieve this, a series of development steps are planned. 

Their research is focused on ‘magnetic confinement’ fusion, in which a hot gas or ‘plasma’ is controlled with magnets inside a ring-shaped chamber known as a Tokamak. This is the design that global partners are working to bring to the commercial energy market. UKAEA operates the world’s largest Tokamak experiment, the Joint European Torus (JET) for fusion scientists around Europe. 

In a fusion reaction, energy is released when two light atomic nuclei are fused together to form one heavier atom. This is the process that powers the Sun and other stars, where hydrogen nuclei are combined to form helium. 

As the Joint European Torus comes close to the conclusion of a 40 year mission in 2023, the next step for true international collaboration and development is the global first industrial scale experiment, ITER (‘The Way’ in Latin), in France. UKAEA will continue to develop technology and designs for the first fusion power plant in the UK by 2040. 

Joint European Torus (JET) is currently the largest and most powerful tokamak in the world; originally opened by Her Majesty The Queen in 1984. 

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