BERLIN – The European Space Agency says it has signed a 86m-euro ($ 102m) contract with a Swiss start-up company to return a large piece of orbital debris back to Earth.
The agency said Thursday that a deal with ClearSpace SA would lead to “the first active debris removal mission” in 2025, in which a specially designed spacecraft will catch and shoot down part of a rocket once used to deliver a satellite into orbit.
Experts have long warned that hundreds of thousands of pieces of space debris orbiting the planet – including an astronaut’s lost mirror – pose a threat to functioning satellites and even to the International Space Station. Several teams are working on ways to deal with the problem.
The object being taken out of orbit is the so-called Vespa payload adapter, which was used to hold and then release a satellite in 201