Europe Launches Design Work for Space Junk Removal Project

Design work on systems of Clearspace-1, a mission to remove space debris from the orbit, began in Europe this summer, the head of the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Moscow office, Rene Pischel, told TASS.

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"Technical work on the project began in July 2020, with joint meetings of ESA and ClearSpace technical specialists, design of systems, work on the flight segment and so on," he said.

A private consortium led by ClearSpace SA, an affiliate of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), won the tender to design the spacecraft. The consortium also includes Airbus, OHB, Deimos, APCO, RUAG and other companies.

The signing of the development contract is scheduled for November 2020. The ceremony was expected to take place this summer, but was postponed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The text of the document was approved during a ministerial meeting of the project’s donor countries back in November 2019.

The Clearspace project is aimed at removing from the orbit inactive satellites and other large pieces of space junk, which have the potential of generating thousands of small shards in case of disintegration. The mission’s first target is Vespa (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter), the upper stage left in orbit after the second flight of ESA’s Vega launcher back in 2013. It is now located at the altitude of approximately 660-800 km above the ground.

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