ESA’s ClearSpace-1 mission will be the first to officially remove space debris from space. Its launch is scheduled for 2025.
Pieces of rockets, pieces of satellites, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of smaller fragments … After sixty years of space activities, waste accumulates around our planet. These debris, which can move at more than 20 000 km / h, is a real danger for the occupants of the International Space Station (ISS) and for other satellites still in operation. It’s time to do some housework.
The issue is taken very seriously by space agencies. China, for example, is considering using lasers to deflect or disintegrate these debris. ESA has also launched an experimental satellite, called RemoveDEBRIS, which aims to test several collection techniques. These techniques include the use of a net of 5 meters in diameter or that of the harpooning. Several positive trials have been conducted but these projects are still under study.
A first mission in 2025
More concretely, ESA has formalized the deployment of its ClearSpace-1 mission, scheduled for launch in 2025. The goal will be to divert the trajectory of a single piece of debris. The European agency would like to set an example, hoping that each operating in space will then take its responsibilities.
“Imagine how dangerous the navigation on the high seas would be if all the ships lost in history were still drifting over the water,” says ESA Managing Director Jan Wörner. This is the current situation in orbit. We can not afford to continue like this. “
Especially since it is expected that more and more new satellites will soon be placed in low orbit. One example is SpaceX’s Starlink project, which plans to deploy at least 30,000 new instruments to connect the entire planet.
A debris named Vespa
For this mission ClearSpace-1, the goal will be to collect a debris of a hundred pounds, called Vespa, with four robotic arms. This is a remnant of launcher of the same name sent to space in 2013 by the European agency. He is currently sailing 800 kilometers above our heads.
The idea would be to deflect it from its trajectory to sink (and burn) into the Earth’s atmosphere. Researchers say they have chosen this object because its simple shape and robustness make it unlikely to fragment once it is seized.