Friday, November 27, 2020

Space trash cleanup: ESA signs off on first-ever mission

 The European Space Agency is paying millions to a start-up to incinerate a large piece of space junk. Thousands of defunct satellites are still circling the Earth, threatening spacecraft that are still in use.

A Swiss company is set to launch our planet's first space cleanup mission after the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Thursday they were signing a €86 million ($102 million) deal with the representatives of the Swiss start-up.

The firm, ClearSpace, hopes to launch a special satellite by 2025 that would be able to snatch pieces of space debris in the Earth's orbit. Currently, thousands of defunct satellites and many more smaller pieces of trash are circling the planet, posing an ever growing collision risk to working satellites and even the International Space Station.

"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," ESA Director General Jan Wörner said while first announcing the mission last December.

Founder and CEO of ClearSpace also warned that the danger will only grow due to plans to send up "hundreds or even thousands of satellites" in the low Earth orbit in the coming years.

"The need is clear for a 'tow truck' to remove failed satellites from this highly trafficked region," he was quoted as saying on the ESA website.

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