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The Clearspace-1 space debris object has been hit by another space debris

The Clearspace-1 space debris object has been hit by another space debris

The European Space Agency has announced that space debris that was to be collected during the first Clear Space mission may have been exposed to other debris. This collision should have fragmented the larger object, producing more debris than was observed from Earth. These elements have now been detected by the European Space Agency, and could change the goal of the recovery mission.

Space junk was involved vespa adapterIt is used to launch satellites into space after they were launched aboard the Italian aircraft carrier Vega. This goes back in particular to the launch of Vega in 2013, when it carried the Proba-V, VNREDSat-1 and ESTCube-1 satellites into space. The European Space Agency’s Clearspace-1 mission was supposed to bind this waste in space and transport it into the atmosphere. In fact, it is located at a rather high altitude, with an orbit of 660 x 790 km, and an inclination of 98.72 degrees.

The mission will be carried out by a shuttle vehicle developed by Swiss start-up Clear Space, which has received support from the European Space Agency as a commercial and scientific partner, and funder, for the mission.

This VESPA transducer has also been tracked in recent days by the Air Force’s 18th Aerospace Defense Squadron, independently by the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Technologies in Germany and the Polish European Optical Network Group. These observations revealed that the main body of the debris was still intact, and that there were no major changes in orbit.

Despite this, the European Space Agency is evaluating whether to change the objectives of the Clearspace-1 mission, the development of which is still continuing as planned. This mission was originally scheduled to launch in 2024.

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Graph showing the division of space debris in orbit by type. Credits: European Space Agency

Space debris emergency

Unfortunately, the collision of space debris is not a rare occurrence, but it is not often that it is monitored and tracked with such precision. Indeed, the VESPA adapter in question was carefully noted as a target for the recovery mission, but it is certainly not the only case of this kind. In fact, it represents yet another example of how the space debris problem is being carefully monitored and expected to worsen in the short term.

An attempt to solve it must necessarily begin with the removal of large debris. These have accumulated over the years from the last stages of rockets, large satellites that have reached the end of their operational lives or have prematurely retired, and converters such as VESPA. Almost all of these elements, on recent launches, have systems to de-orbit independently, at the end of their service life, or after their payload has been launched. However, in the past 60 years, a lot of it has accumulated, especially in orbits high above Earth (more than 500 km).

You can read the ESA press release here.

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