ClearSpace-1 will be the first space mission to remove an item of debris from orbit, planned for launch in 2025. The mission is being procured as a service contract with a startup-led commercial consortium, to help establish a new market for in-orbit servicing, as well as debris removal.
The ClearSpace-1 mission will target the Vespa (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter) upper stage left in an approximately 800 km by 660 km altitude orbit after the second flight of ESA’s Vega launcher back in 2013. With a mass of 100 kg, the Vespa is close in size to a small satellite, while its relatively simple shape and sturdy construction make it a suitable first goal, before progressing to larger, more challenging captures by follow-up missions – eventually including multi-object capture.The ClearSpace-1 ‘chaser’ will be launched into a lower 500-km orbit for commissioning and critical tests before being raised to the target orbit for rendezvous and capture using a quartet of robotic arms under ESA supervision. The combined chaser plus Vespa will then be deorbited to burn up in the atmosphere.
Congratulations to ESA for going on the initiative with this! If we want to make LEO sustainable, we need to start removing the dead satellites, the sooner the better. Hopefully, NASA, Roscosmos, China and other countries will follow in removing their dead satellites.
📣 Exciting news for the first active debris removal mission! ClearSpace just signed a contract with @Arianespace for the launch of its servicer spacecraft #ClearSpace1 with the European launcher Vega C. Watch video: loom.ly/Phq3fpYRead more: loom.ly/5ieHoNs
ClearSpace To Launch The First Active Debris Removal Mission With Arianespace Vega CFor the benefit of ClearSpace, Arianespace will launch ClearSpace-1, a servicer spacecraft, with the European light launcher Vega C. ClearSpace-1, developed by ClearSpace, is the first active debris removal mission, which will rendezvous, capture and remove a piece of space debris. The launch is scheduled from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, starting second half of 2026. Renens, Switzerland; May 9th 2023. ClearSpace and Arianespace signed a launch contract for ClearSpace-1, the first active debris removal mission that will capture and deorbit a derelict space debris object of more than 100 kg. The launch, scheduled starting as soon as the second-half of 2026, will use the new European light launcher Vega C to 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. Close in mass to a small satellite, the simple shape of this space debris object will allow to demonstrate the technologies of the spacecraft and its quartet of robotic arms, thus opening the way for more challenging missions with multiple captures per flight.“Above us, there currently are over 34,000 pieces of space debris of more than 10 centimeters each as well as about 6,500 operational satellites in orbit, a number expected to rise to more than 27,000 by the end of the decade. These figures demonstrate the need to find innovative solutions for preserving the benefits of Space for humanity and life on Earth. At Arianespace, we are honored to deliver this mission with Vega C, thus supporting a sustainable use of Space,” said Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace.“We are very enthusiastic about this deal with Arianespace. This secures ClearSpace’s access to space for our trailblazing space debris removal mission. The ClearSpace-1 mission demonstrates a turning point in the space industry as we urgently need to bring solutions to a fundamental problem: we are putting objects into space quicker than they are being removed”, said Luc Piguet, CEO and Co-founder of ClearSpace. “We look forward to this European collaboration and the potential for more missions in the future.”In 2019, ESA selected ClearSpace from a field of more than a dozen candidates to lead the first mission to remove an ESA-owned item from orbit. Supported by ESA’s new Space Safety Programme, the mission is being procured as a service contract with a startup-led commercial consortium, to help establish a new market for in-orbit servicing, as well as debris removal.
The Arianespace VEGA C ready to launch the ClearSpace-1 mission due in 2026, artistic rendering © ClearSpace, Arianespace
Luc Piguet, ClearSpace CEO and co-founder, and Stéphane Israël, Arianespace CEO, signing a contract for the launch of the ClearSpace-1 mission, due in 2026. © Arianespace, ClearSpace
New space debris objects have been detected in the vicinity of the target object of the future Clearspace-1 debris removal mission.Analysis is ongoing: https://www.esa.int/Space_Safety/Objects_detected_in_the_vicinity_of_Clearspace-1_debris_removal_mission_target📷ClearSpace SA
Objects detected in the vicinity of Clearspace-1 debris removal mission target22/08/2023ESA / Space SafetyOn 10 August 2023, ESA’s Space Debris Office was informed by the United States 18th Space Defense Squadron that new objects have been detected in the vicinity of a payload adapter.This adapter, named VESPA, was left in orbit following the 2013 launch of a Vega rocket from ESA’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The object is a 113 kg, two-metre-diameter, conical upper portion of a payload adapter associated with the VV02 Vega launch that delivered the Proba-V, VNREDSat-1 and ESTCube-1 satellites into Earth orbit.The new debris is believed to originate from the VESPA adapter, which is in an orbit with perigee at 660 km altitude, apogee at 790 km and an inclination of 98.72 degrees.This payload adapter is the subject of the upcoming Clearspace-1 active space debris removal (ADR) mission. It is being developed as the first-ever mission to remove an existing derelict object from orbit through highly precise and complex, close-proximity and capture operations.ESA procured the Clearspace-1 mission as a service from the Swiss start-up ‘Clearspace’ in order to demonstrate the technologies needed for debris removal and as a first step to establishing a new, sustainable and striving commercial space ecosystem.The information currently available indicates that the most likely cause of the event was the hypervelocity impact of a small, untracked object that resulted in a low-energy release of new fragments. A preliminary assessment indicates that the increased collision risk to other missions posed by these fragments is negligible.The US 18th Space Defense Squadron has conducted further tracking, and the TIRA system of the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques in Germany and the Polish “European Optical Network” members (under ESA contract) have also conducted independent observations. These observations indicate that the main object remains intact and has experienced no significant alteration to its orbit.The development of the Clearspace-1 mission will continue as planned while additional data on the event is collected. ESA and industrial partners are carefully evaluating the event’s impact on the mission. A full analysis will last for several weeks.This fragmentation event underlines the relevance of the Clearspace-1 mission. The most significant threat posed by larger objects of space debris is that they fragment into clouds of smaller objects that can each cause significant damage to active satellites. To minimise the number of fragmentation events, we must urgently reduce the creation of new space debris and begin actively mitigating the impact of existing objects.