The first active space debris removal has moved closer to launch after a new deal was signed for the historic mission.
The mission, called ClearSpace-1, aims to capture a piece of debris weighing more than 100 kg and remove it from orbit. To begin with, the garbage-collecting spacecraft will be released into sun-synchronous orbit by the new European light launcher Vega C.
After commissioning and critical testing, the spacecraft will be delivered to the intended nest, which will be removed through reentry.
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The launch is not scheduled until the second half of 2026.
Luc Piguet, ClearSpace’s CEO and co-founder, hailed the new deal as a critical step for the project.
“This ensures ClearSpace’s access to space for our pioneering mission to remove space debris,” Piguet said in a statement.
“The ClearSpace-1 mission marks a turning point in the space industry as we urgently need to find solutions to a fundamental problem: we are putting objects into space faster than they are being removed.”
The deal between two European players also marks another milestone for the continent’s space ambitions. It comes a month after Europe was found to have surpassed the US in private investment in space technology for the first time.
More importantly, the contract brings us closer to solving a growing problem in space. Right now, there are more than 34,000 pieces of space debris larger than 10 centimeters — as well as about 6,500 operational satellites in orbit, a number expected to exceed 27,000 by the end of the decade.
All of these objects increase the risk of collision with satellites or space stations. iIf the accumulation of garbage continues at this rate, some areas of space may become unusable. And for those of us on Earth, the litter is ruining our view of the cosmos.
If all goes according to plan, ClearSpace-1 will be a benchmark in making our solar system cleaner.