LAUSANNE, Switzerland (EPFL PR) — Work has just begun on building the first satellite that can capture and deorbit space debris. Making the space activities more sustainable is a huge responsibility – one that the European Space Agency has entrusted to EPFL startup ClearSpace.
As the ink dries on the contract of the Preliminary Autorization to Proceed with the European Space Agency (ESA), the ClearSpace-1 mission is getting under way. One short year ago, ESA selected EPFL startup ClearSpace to lead a European consortium that will develop technologies to capture and deorbit space debris.
It is an unprecedented decision in many ways. First, in a sector dominated by government agencies and other major industry players, selecting a startup for such a role is unusual. Furthermore, this is the first time a space agency has selected and funded a program to recover one of the many objects left in space.
The consortium’s first task will be to capture part of the upper stage of the Vega rocket – which ESA has left in 2013 and is currently orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 660 kilometers – and ensure it re-enters the atmosphere in a controlled manner. ClearSpace-1 is ...