The European Space Agency signed an agreement with the Swiss startup ClearSpace and provided $ 68 million in funding for the project. This is the first mission to clean up near-Earth space from broken satellites and other space debris. The device itself, which will do this, has received the working name “Claw”.
Today, out of 2,800 operating man-made satellites of the Earth, there are more than 3,000 “dead”, as well as 900,000 debris larger than 10 cm, which represent a real danger. There is also other space debris, but ESA has so far decided to focus on the largest objects. ClearSpace-1’s mission is to trap dead satellites and push them out of orbit so that they burn up in the planet’s atmosphere.
The first target for Claw is already known – it is VESPA. Secondary Vega payload adapter used when launching ESA Vega rocket in 2013. The weight of this spent device is 112 kg, which is comparable to the parameters of most satellites. ClearSpace has already created an animation that demonstrates how Claw will grab an object and launch it along a new trajectory.
The ClearSpace-1 mission is expected to start in 2025, and the search for more sponsors is underway. This is a long-term project, which is designed to solve the most important task, which will soon become critical.