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While working at the NASA Johnson Space Center during the 1970s, astrophysicist Donald Kessler predicted that collisions of space debris would become increasingly common as the density of space debris increases in orbit around the Earth, creating a cascading effect. Since 2005, the amount of debris in orbit has followed an exponential growth curve, confirming Kessler's prediction.
Given that the problem is only going to get worse in the coming years, there is a growing demand for technologies that can remove space debris. Following a competitive process, the ESA recently contracted the Swiss startup ClearSpace Today to create the world's first debris-removing space mission. This mission, known as ClearSpace-1, is expected to launch by 2025 and will pave the way for more debris-removal missions.
Pieces - Space - Debris - Orbit - Collision
At present, there are an estimated 29,000 pieces of space debris in orbit that pose a severe collision risk with satellites and space missions. However, these are just the objects that exceed 10 cm (~4 inches) in diameter. On top of that, there are some 750,000 objects that range in size from 1 mm to 1 cm and another 166 million that measure between 1 and 10 cm (0.4 to 4 inches) in diameter.
To find solutions to this problem, a team of experienced space debris researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) came together to launch ClearSpace Today. At the recent ESA Ministerial Council (Space19+), which took place in Seville, Spain, at the end of November, ministers agreed to award a service contract to a commercial provider to safely remove an inactive ESA-owned object from LEO.
Support - ESA - Space - Safety - Program
With support provided by the ESA's new Space Safety program, the purpose of this initiative is to contribute to the process of cleaning up orbital space. At the same time, it is intended to act as a demonstrator that will validate...
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