European space junk cleaner mission impeded

The incident highlights the issue of constantly increasing debris in the Earth’s orbit
An undated illustration of the ClearSpace-1 mission. — Gizmodo
An undated illustration of the ClearSpace-1 mission. — Gizmodo

A space debris removal mission, ClearSpace-1, was foiled after it was hit by a piece of space junk that was floating in orbit on our planet Earth, a statement issued by the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

The mission, organised by ESA, is led by ClearSpace SA, a Swiss startup company, which is expected to be launched in 2026.

“The development of the ClearSpace-1 mission will continue as planned while additional data on the event is collected,” ESA wrote in a statement. “ESA and industrial partners are carefully evaluating the event’s impact on the mission.”

The claw-like spacecraft designed to collect space junk was hit by a payload adopter VESPA, sent into space in 2013 and has been floating since then, serving its final purpose as the target of ClearSpace-1.

On August 10, the ESA was informed by the United States 18th Space Defense Squadron that some debris was spotted near the VESPA adopter which broke into further smaller pieces after colliding with other space junk.

The incident also highlights the issue of constantly increasing space junk in the Earth’s orbit. Department of Defense’s global Space Surveillance Network is actively monitoring around 27,000 pieces of orbital debris, along with millions of other tiny pieces.

As the space industry expands globally and more spacecraft are being sent into orbit, the number of space debris could elevate, increasing the possibility of collisions with one another.