The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to lance a robotic space debris collector to remove several items from the orbit.
Called ClearSpace-1, the mission will cost €120 million, and the spacecraft will remove a single piece of debris. If successful, the mission could herald a large-scale project that could reduce the clutter of junk, which orbits around our planet. The director of the agency is also pushing a set of new rules, with one of them mentioning that those who launch a satellite will also have to remove it from orbit when it is no longer useful.
The ESA director has compared the current situation of space junk with a sea on which all the ships that are no longer used would still float and hinder the navigation and launch of new ships. It is estimated that thousands of tons of space junk have been produced in the 60 years, with more than 3,500 defunct satellites and almost 750,000 fragments floating around. The fragments can reach an impressive speed of 20,000 kilometers per hour (or 12,500 miles per hour).
ESA Plans to Launch a Space Debris Collector in 2025
The odds of a possible collision will continue to grow at an accelerated pace if nothing is done to mitigate the current situation and limit the appearance of more fragments in the future. Funding was approved during the Space19+ meeting, which took place in Spain a few weeks ago. A consortium led by the Swiss startup ClearSpace will conduct the operations.
ClearSpace-1 will target a fragment known by Vespa, which split from the ESA Vega launcher in 2013. At 100 kilograms, the weight of the piece is on par with that of a small satellite. The shape and resistance make it a perfect candidate for the test.
After the ClearSpace probe reaches the orbit, it will track down Vespa and capture with the help of four robotic arms. The spacecraft will drag the fragment into orbit, and both will burn.