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ClearSpace-1 damaged by space debris?

August 26, 2023

By Chris Forrester

A satellite especially built to clear orbital debris has possibly been damaged by space debris.

The European Space Agency (ESA) procured the Clearspace-1 mission as a service from the Swiss start-up ClearSpace in order to demonstrate the orbital technologies needed for debris removal and as a first step to establishing a new, sustainable and striving commercial space ecosystem.

ESA’s Space Debris Office was informed by the US 18th Space Defense Squadron that new objects have been detected in the vicinity of a payload adapter. Seemingly, a section of the debris that was too small to be tracked then struck ClearSpace-1. There is an ongoing evaluation by ESA and the mission partners are evaluating any negative impact on the overall mission itself.

The problem seems to have been caused from the VESPA adapter, which is in an orbit with perigee at 660 km. altitude, apogee at 790 km. and an inclination of 98.72 degrees. This adapter was left in orbit following the 2013 launch of a Vega rocket from ESA’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The object is a 113 kg., two-metre-diameter, conical upper portion of a payload adapter.

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

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