The European Space Agency (ESA) is contracting Swiss start-up company ClearSpace to remove a piece of space debris from orbit, in a deal worth €86-million. The will be both the first ever mission to remove orbiting space debris and the first time ESA has contracted a private-sector company to provide a complete end-to-end mission service. Previously, the agency always defined the spacecraft it would use (although they would be built by industry) and operated them itself. Under the contract, ClearSpace will launch its first mission, ClearSpace-1, in 2025. This spacecraft will rendezvous with, then capture and bring down, a Vespa payload adapter. This will be a technology demonstration mission, as the Vespa (the name is an acronym for Vega [rocket] secondary payload adapter) is actually in a ‘disposal’ orbit. That is, it will, if left alone, eventually fall into the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.
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