ESA Sets Date to Launch a Space Debris Collector in 2025

The ClearSpace 1 mission will set out to pick up one item of debris to begin with.
Fabienne Lang
ClearSpace 1 with captured VespaESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) has set out to begin the process of collecting debris from Space. Its ClearSpace 1 mission is the first of its kind to remove an item of debris from orbit. 

If all goes according to plan, the mission will launch in 2025 and will begin the process of collecting debris from Space, something that desperately needs to happen. 


Why is this mission so important?

To put it simply, "Imagine how dangerous sailing the high seas would be if all the ships ever lost in history were still drifting on top of the water," said Jan Wörner, ESA’s director general. "That is the current situation in orbit, and it cannot be allowed to continue."

ESA Sets Date to Launch a Space Debris Collector in 2025
ClearSpace 1, Source: ESA

Clearly, our orbit needs a clean up process set in place. 

The ClearSpace 1 mission will cost €120 million ($132 million), and hopes to open up a wide-range debris collection operation in Space. 

Wörner stressed that rules should be implemented for those launching satellites into space to take responsibility for removing them from orbit once they are no longer needed. 

Luc Piguet, founder, and CEO of Clear Space — a company where experienced space debris collection researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne research institute — said "The space debris issue is more pressing than ever before. Today we have nearly 2000 live satellites in space and more than 3000 failed ones."

That's a lot of unused floating debris in orbit. 

Moreover, if these 3,000 and more disused satellites stay in Space the likelihood of them colliding is high. This would create more debris in the long run even if we stop sending satellites to orbit. 

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What is ClearSpace 1's mission?

ClearSpace 1 will target a single piece of debris called Vespa. Vespa was part of ESA's Vega launcher in 2013 and has been left floating in orbit about 800 km (495 miles) from Earth.

ESA Sets Date to Launch a Space Debris Collector in 2025
ClearSpace 1, Source: ESA


Vespa weighs approximately 100 kg (220 lbs), about the weight and size of a small satellite.

ClearSpace's space probe will use its four robotic arms to drag Vespa out of orbit. The chaser and Vespa are meant to burn up in the atmosphere as they make their way down to Earth. 

The mission would pave the way for future debris collection attempts, something that clearly needs to be a priority sooner rather than later.