Science

Europe is set to sign €86 million deal to bring space debris home

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on November 28, 2020

The European Space Agency signed an €86 million contract with an industrial team led by the Swiss start-up ClearSpace SA to buy the first space debris from Earth’s orbit. ClearSpace will launch a mission to remove debris from the space near Earth in 2025.

On December 1, the Mission experts will give an overview of the project status, explain the ambitious mission design and detail the next steps leading to launch.

At the ESA’s Space19+ Ministerial Council meet, ministers granted ESA the funding to place a service contract with a commercial provider for the safe removal of an inactive object from low Earth orbit.

Following a competitive process, an industrial team led by ClearSpace SA was invited to submit the final proposal. According to the ESA, with this contract signature, a critical milestone for establishing a new commercial sector in space will be achieved.

ESA is purchasing the initial mission and contributing key expertise, as part of the Active Debris Removal/ In-Orbit Servicing project (ADRIOS) within ESA’s Space Safety Programme. ClearSpace SA will raise the remainder of the mission cost through commercial investors.

Number of debris on the rise

In almost 60 years of space activities, over 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, ESA mentioned in its report.

ClearSpace-1 will demonstrate the technical ability and commercial capacity to significantly enhance the long-term sustainability of spaceflight.

The mission is supported within ESA’s Space Safety Programme based at the agency’s ESOC operations center in Darmstadt, Germany.

Published on November 28, 2020

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