Science 2 min read

Mission To Recover Space Debris in Orbit To Launch in 2025

Andrey VP / Shutterstock.com

Andrey VP / Shutterstock.com

The European Space Agency will be launching the first space debris mission to collect the VESPA spacecraft's upper stage that's currently orbiting Earth.

The European Space Agency has commissioned the world’s first space debris removal mission.

Thousands of active and inactive satellites, rocket stages, and other rubbish floats around the Earth at hypersonic speeds.

With thousands of new satellites set to enter the orbit in the coming years, the threat of collisions is more significant than ever. As you can imagine, such a collision could create fresh debris, leading to a cascade of destructive increases.

Head of ESA’s Clean Space Initiative, Luisa Innocenti explained:

“Even if all space launches were halted tomorrow, projections show that the overall orbital debris population will continue to grow, as collisions between items generate fresh debris in a cascade effect.”

Despite the technological advancements, the only way to decrease this threat is to remove the debris from orbit actively. So, the ESA‘s Ministerial Council consortium awarded a service contract to a team of companies led by Swiss startup, Clearspace.

Removing Space Debris From the Orbit

The Clearspace-1 mission will launch in 2025 and is set to intercept and collect a rocket’s upper stage from a previous ESA mission.

The European Space Agency sent the Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (VESPA) to space in 2013 for the second flight of the Vega launcher. And it’s currently in an 800 by 600 km altitude orbit.

Along with its lightweight (about 220 IB), the VESPA upper stage also has a simple shape and sturdy construction. That made it the perfect space debris to collect from space.

After launching, the Clearspace-1 will rendezvous with the rocket upper-stage in space, where its four robotic arms will capture the target. Then it’ll return the VESPA upper stage to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

If the mission is successful, it’ll pave the way for more ambitious projects. Space agencies may start looking to capture multiple pieces of debris soon.

This new mission, implemented by an ESA project team, will allow us to demonstrate these (space debris removal) technologies, achieving a world first in the process,” says Innocenti.

Read More: U.S. Expedites Integration of AI to its Space Technologies

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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