Prince Charles was in good spirits as he visited Oxfordshire today taking a tour of a pioneering space company.

Japanese company Astroscale based at Harwell Campus near Didcot is running a mission to trial the ability to remove debris from space.

The team launched ELSA-d (End of life services by Astroscale) last March.

Its 200kg spacecraft is performing a series of tests, repeatedly docking and releasing a replica defunct satellite, using a magnetic mechanism.

The mission, licensed by the UK Space Agency, acted as a test case for licensing future missions to remove defunct spacecraft and fragments of debris from orbit.

According to Astroscale, there are an estimated 36,500 debris objects greater than 10cm already in space.

READ ALSO: Live updates: Prince Charles visiting Oxford today

Objects can stay in orbit for hundreds of years and present a danger to the rapidly increasing number of satellites needed for global communications, infrastructure and earth observation.

Arriving at the Harwell Innovation Centre, Prince Charles, 73, wearing a grey suit and pink tie, was greeted by the Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Marjorie Glasgow.

He also met John Auburn, managing director of Astroscale Ltd and Sanjay Bhandari, chair of the board at Satellite Applications Catapult.

During a tour of the facility he chatted with George Freeman, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation.

Charles was given a tour of the In-Orbit Servicing Control Centre by Al Colebourn, head of spacecraft operations, and met staff and scientists of the Mission Control team.

He watched a demonstration of the ELSA-d mission operations on a plasma video screen and was shown a brief demonstration of mission control tools, including a half-size model of the ELSA-d spacecraft.

He heard that Astroscale's objective is to build on the ELSA-d mission and other missions to eventually provide a debris removal service.

Space technology is increasingly valuable to the UK economy, employing over 45,000 people in highly skilled jobs.

Astroscale, whose HQ is in Japan and has subsidiaries in the UK, the US, Israel and Singapore, itself has grown from three to 85 employees since 2017.

It is the first private company whose vision is to work for the safe and sustainable development of space.

Later, Prince Charles attended a private high-level meeting with Government and space industry leaders, including Paul Bate who is CEO of the UK Space Agency.

The group discussed the UK’s space sustainability agenda, which is already under way, and plans to prevent further pollution of the space environment.