SPACE 'TOW TRUCK' TO HELP CLEAN UP FAILED SATELLITES IN EARTH'S ORBIT
The European Space Agency (ESA) has commissioned a £100 million space debris removal project aimed at clearing up the remains of failed satellites from Earth's orbit.
Swiss start-up ClearSpace has been chosen by the ESA to carry out what it believes to be a world-first mission in 2025, with the British government contributing £10 million to the cause.
Dubbed Clearspace-1, the mission will see an unmanned "tow truck" spacecraft launched into orbit to target part of an ESA rocket that has been floating about 435 miles above Earth since 2013.
Once in orbit, the spacecraft will grasp the debris with robotic arms before returning to Earth - causing both to burn up in the atmosphere.
"This is the right time for such a mission," ClearSpace founder and chief executive Luc Piguet said.
"The space debris issue is more pressing than ever before. Today we have nearly 2,000 live satellites in space and more than 3,000 failed ones.
"And in the coming years the number of satellites will increase by an order of magnitude, with multiple mega-constellations made up of hundreds or even thousands of satellites planned for low Earth orbit.
"The need is clear for a 'tow truck' to remove failed satellites from this highly trafficked region."
ESA director general Jan Worner hopes the Clearspace-1 mission will pave the way for a new industry of in-orbit debris removal.
"Imagine how dangerous sailing the high seas would be if all the ships ever lost in history were still drifting on top of the water," Mr Worner.
"That is the current situation in orbit, and it cannot be allowed to continue."Published: by Radio NewsHub