The first active space debris removal has moved closer to launch after a new contract was signed for the landmark mission.
Swiss startup ClearSpace and French rocket giant Arianespace announced today that a launch contract for the order has been signed.
Dubbed ClearSpace-1, the mission aims to capture and remove from orbit a piece of debris weighing over 100 kg. First, the garbage collection spacecraft will be launched into sun-synchronous orbit by Europe’s new Vega C light rocket.
After commissioning and critical testing, the spacecraft will be lifted to the target drop, which will be disposed of by atmospheric re-entry.
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The start is planned at the earliest second half of 2026.
Artist’s rendering of Vega C at ClearSpace-1 launch. Photo credit: ClearSpace/Arianespace
Luc Piguet, the CEO and co-founder of ClearSpace, welcomed the new agreement as a crucial step for the project.
“This secures ClearSpace access to space for our groundbreaking space debris removal mission,” Piguet said in a statement.
“The ClearSpace-1 mission marks a turning point in the space industry as we urgently need to find solutions to a fundamental problem: we’re getting objects into space faster than they’re being removed.”
Piguet (left) and Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace, signed the contract for the launch of ClearSpace-1. Photo credit: Arianespace/ClearSpace
The deal between two European players also marks another milestone for the continent’s space ambitions. It comes a month after Europe was found to have surpassed the US in private space investment for the first time.
More importantly, the treaty brings us closer to solving a growing space problem. There are currently over 34,000 pieces of space junk larger than 10 centimeters — as well as about 6,500 operational satellites in orbit, a number expected to surpass 27,000 by the end of the decade.
All of these objects increase the risk of collisions with satellites or space stations. IIf garbage accumulation continues at this rate, some regions of space could become unusable. And for those of us on Earth, junk is ruining our view of the cosmos.
If all goes according to plan, ClearSpace-1 will set a benchmark for making our solar system a cleaner place.