The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a contract to purchase a service. That service is using a claw to capture space debris and send it to a fiery doom.
Working with Swiss startup Clearspace SA, the ESA hopes to start the process of cleaning up space.
This will be accomplished through the use of what The Register describes as an orbiting claw that will grab space junk from orbit and send it to a fiery doom.
The agency reports that in 60 years of space activity there have been more than 5 550 launches which have seen 42 000 tracked objects in orbit of which 23 000 remain in space.
“With today’s annual launch rates averaging nearly 100, and with break-ups continuing to occur at average historical rates of four to five per year, the number of debris objects in space will steadily increase,” the agency wrote.
The first mission featuring what we’re dubbing The Claw, will take place in 2025. The Clearspace-1 mission will target the Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (Vespa) which has a mass of 112kg and is close in size to a small satellite.
When the claw grabs Vespa the two will descend into the atmosphere where they will burn up.
While the ESA is paying €86 million for this project, that figure will only cover some of the cost.
“ClearSpace SA will raise the remainder of the mission cost through commercial investors,” the agency said.