The European Space Agency has signed a contract worth €86 million that will see the organisation team up with an industrial team led by the Swiss start-up ClearSpace SA, to remove a piece of space debris from orbit.
As part of the contract, ClearSpace SA will launch the first active debris removal mission, aptly named ClearSpace-1, in 2025. The mission will see ClearSpace capture and the Vega Secondary Payload Adapter [vega] before pushing it towards the atmosphere it will burn up, according to reports from Slash Gear.
Vega is currently ordering in an 801 km by 664 km-altitude gradual disposal orbit, complying with space debris mitigation regulations, following the second flight of Vega back in 2013. With a mass of 112 kg, the Vespa target is close in size to a small satellite.
#CallForMedia: In 2025, ClearSpace SA will launch #ClearSpace1, the first mission to perform removal of an item of space debris from orbit. Journalists are invited to follow an online briefing, Tuesday, 1 December, 13:30 CET 👉https://t.co/dDLZBKbLme pic.twitter.com/HL4l6bhtLn
— ESA (@esa) November 26, 2020
The mission to clean up space debris comes at a time when launching satellites into orbit is more popular than ever. As the ESA notes, In almost 60 years of space activities, more than 5550 launches have resulted in some 42 000 tracked objects in orbit, of which about 23 000 remain in space and are regularly tracked.
With today’s annual launch rates averaging nearly 100, and with break-ups continuing to occur at average historical rates of four to five per year, the number of debris objects in space will steadily increase.
ClearSpace-1 will demonstrate the technical ability and commercial capacity to significantly enhance the long-term sustainability of spaceflight.