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Luc Piguet of ClearSpace and Stephane Israel from Arianespace

Swiss company ClearSpace is developing a small satellite called ClearSpace-1, the first active debris removal mission that will capture and deorbit a derelict space debris object of more than 100 kg.

ESA and ESA’s new Space Safety Programme selected 2019 ClearSpace to lead the first mission to remove an ESA-owned item from orbit.

The mission took a step ahead when ClearSpace and Arianespace signed on 9 May a contract for launching the satellite in 2026. The European light launcher Vega C will release the spacecraft into a sun-synchronous drift orbit for commissioning and critical tests. The servicer spacecraft will then be raised to the client object for rendezvous, capture and subsequent deorbitation through an atmospheric reentry.

The space debris object removed by this mission is the upper part of a Vespa (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter) left in a ‘gradual disposal’ orbit, in compliance with space debris mitigation regulations, during the second flight of a Vega launcher in 2013. Vespa has a simple shape and it has a mass similar to a small satellite, making it a perfect target for the mission. ClearSpace-1 has robotic arms for catching objects. 

Read more about ClearSpace-1 and the mission on the ClearSpace's website.