Ask a company like EarthwiseHauling.com and they’ll say that dealing with junk removal can be a bit of a pain, especially in difficult to access areas. Some places are just hard to deal with.
So imagine the difficulty that the ESA will be dealing with as part of their latest mission, as they recently contracted Swiss startup, ClearSpace Today, to help them with the world’s very first debris-removing space mission; basically, junk removal IN SPACE! The mission, dubbed ClearSpace-1, will launch by 2025, and is aimed at paving the way for more space debris removal missions.
At present, there’s about 29,000 pieces of space debris currently floating in obit, which pose a threat to satellites and space missions. However, these particular pieces are only the ones that are 10cm in diameter or bigger. On top of that, there’s also at least 750,000 objects between 1mm-1cm in diameter, followed by 166m pieces of debris between 1-10cm in diameter.
In order to deal with the issue, they did what most government agencies usually do. Find a contractor like with EarthwiseHauling.com, only one capable of handling space-faring missions. Space debris experts from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne took part in the meeting at the ESA Ministerial Council in Seville, Spain, where discussions about how to deal with the issue of space debris happened.
They agreed to award a service contract to a private company to handle the removal of an inactive ESA-owned object, with support from the Space Safety program. The goal behind this bold new plan is to help with cleaning up orbital space, while also showing that the technology needed for space debris removal exists, is usable, and is practical.
The ClearSpace-1’s target is the upper stage of a VEga Secondary Payload Adapter, currently orbiting in an 800x660km trajectory. This is from the second Vega launcher flight back in 2013, and is responsible for bringing into orbit the Probit-V satellite, as well as Vietnam’s and Estonia’s very first satellites.
The target was chosen due to being close to the size and weight of a defunct satellite, combined with a simple shape and sturdy build, making it an easy-to-work-with target for removal. As such, this VESPA part is a good sample or test before trying anything more challenging.
A lot of people want this to work, and, to be fair, it’s hard to blame them. But there are a lot of issues to deal with, thanks to the nature of this endeavor. Time will tell.