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Asian startups defied COVID turmoil in path to unicorn status

Japan's satellite company Astroscale and South Korea's Socar gambled to expand

Japanese startup Astroscale is building satellites that can clean space debris in orbit.

TOKYO -- Nobu Okada, founder and CEO of satellite startup Astroscale, was gearing up for another round of fundraising earlier last year when the coronavirus pandemic started disrupting the company's supply chain. Then came more bad news: OneWeb, a major U.K. satellite startup, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. after failing to secure funding from its biggest backer, SoftBank. 

Astroscale, which is building satellites that can clean space debris in orbit, had announced a partnership with OneWeb in 2019. Okada, bombarded with questions from investors and business partners, began drawing up contingency plans. 

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