ESA Awards Deorbit Vega Rocket Debris Contract to Switzerland Startup ClearSpace

The European Space Agency signed a debris-removal deal with Swiss startup ClearSpace tasking the corporate with deorbiting a significant piece of a Vega rocket left in orbit in 2013.

The mission, codenamed ClearSpace-1, is slated to launch in 2025 to seize and remove a 100kg Vespa load adapter an Arianespace Vega left in orbit after mounting ESA’s Proba-V remote-sensing satellite.

ClearSpace will lead a consortium of European firms in constructing a spacecraft geared up with four robotic arms to seize debris and drag it into Earth’s atmosphere.

ESA predicts the overall mission will cost 117 million euros ($129 million) to accomplish, per spokesperson Erika Verbelen.

Luc Piguet, co-founder and CEO of ClearSpace, stated the ESA funding includes spacecraft development and launch costs.

Piguet stated ESA allocated 70 million euros overlaying the first three years of this system, according to how the agency’s ministerial budget process works. Since ministerial occurs every three years, the agency’s 22 member states will focus on funding the rest of the mission in 2022.

ClearSpace is now in the process of concluding the alliance of associates that can build the debris removal spacecraft, Piguet stated. ClearSpace will lead the design, while its alliance members build the spacecraft.

Piguet stated ClearSpace intends to launch its spacecraft, so far autonomous, in late 2024 or early 2025. ESA investment requires the mission to launch on a European rocket.

ESA said the simple, conical shape of a Vespa payload adapter makes it a perfect first goal prior to progressing to harder missions.

By Emelia Murison

Emelia Murison is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for innovation and technology. She covers breaking industry news, #SpaceForGood, and product reviews for the group. She also provides copywriting services to startups around the world – one of which introduced her to the world of Aerospace.

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