ESA's spacecraft will take out orbital debris in 2025
The spacefaring 'tow truck' will take space derelicts and make room for satellites
PARIS — The European Space Agency has commissioned the world's first mission to capture a piece of space debris from Earth's orbit in 2025.
The ESA says that the Swiss startup ClearSpace was awarded with the contract for ClearSpace-1, a spacecraft that will sport four robotic arms for grabbing debris.
ClearSpace CEO Luc Piguet says the spacecraft will be a "tow truck" that clears space debris to make room for satellites.
According to the ESA, ClearSpace-1 will recover the VESPA, a secondary payload adapter that has been left adrift since it helped deliver the Proba-V satellite to space in 2013.
The VESPA is close in size to a small satellite, and its simple shape and sturdy construction makes the adaptor a prime candidate for the experiment.
ClearSpace-1 will be launched into a 500-kilometer orbit to undergo testing before it moves up to VESPA's higher orbit, which sits at an altitude of 660 by 800 kilometers.
Once in position, ClearSpace-1 will utilize its quartet of arms to catch Vespa under the ESA's supervision.
After ClearSpace-1 captures the target, it will return to the Earth's atmosphere and burn up with the VESPA.
The ESA says it will refine the chaser's capabilities with the goal of launching follow up missions in the future, including capturing multiple objects.
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