Why Europe’s Space Agency has spent $ 103 million to remove a piece of space junk


Conceptual image of the ClearSpace-1 mission.

Conceptual image of the ClearSpace-1 mission.
The image: Esa

European Space Agency has signed a landmark agreement with Swiss beginningsClearspace to remove a single item of space debris in 2025. The $ 103 million price tag is steep, but the mission includes an orbit, Mouth-like netThe Herald could usher in an entirely new space industry.

new contract, Announced According to the ESA, as of last weekend, it is unique that the mission will include “removing an item of the spacecraft from orbit”. The spin-off of Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), is the commercial provider for this mission, and will seek the help of partners in Germany, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Poland and many other European countries.

The target in question is Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (Or Vespa), which has been circling low-Earth orbit (LEO) since 2013. This 247 pounds (112-)Kggram) The payload adapter successfully sent the Proba-V satellite into space, but, Like many other objects in the LEO, it currently functions aimlessly, posing a potential threat to the satellites’ functioning. And possibly also the International Space Station.

The archival image from 2013 shows the Vespa (Vega secondary payload adapter) in the background, with the Proba-V satellite in the foreground.

The archival image from 2013 shows the Vespa (Vega secondary payload adapter) in the background, with the Proba-V satellite in the foreground.
The image: ESA – Karim Melb

The € 86 million (USD $ 103 million) seems like a lot of money to spend on removing even a single piece of space debris, but the ESA is making a significant investment. The technology required for the ClearSpace-1 mission, in which a spacecraft will complete, capture, and bring down a “Vespa payload adapter”, will likely be leveraged in similar future missions (this particular strategy will work). Ultimately, ESA is hoping to launch “a new commercial area in space”.

Clearspace Solution Will include a spacecraft and Conical mesh Vespa will “eat” payload adapters. This would require unimaginable accuracy, as objects would travel at speeds reaching 17,400 mph (28,000 km / h). Can make a little misunderstanding Target object Can bounce before the net is closed Or even reason A serious collision. With its cargo secured, the ClearSpace spacecraft would fall into Earth’s atmosphere and burn upon re-entry.

According to ESA, A. Number There are approximately 22,300 items of debris currently being tracked. With each added item, Collision chance Increases, making LEO a dangerous place for satellites and astronauts. Removing this debris “has become necessary and it is our responsibility to ensure that tomorrow’s generations continue to benefit from the infrastructure and exploration of space,” accordingly In ClearSpace, the addition of ClearSpace-1 will “demonstrate technical capability and commercial potential that will greatly enhance the long-term stability of spaceflight.”

ClearSpace has its own conical mesh, but many other companies are developing their concepts. RemoveDEBRIS, for example, uses a Harpoon Snatching the wayward objects in the classroom. Only time will tell which strategy Works best, but it is becoming increasingly clear Are the solution coming. It’s time to clean us Our shit.

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