Planned for 2025, the Clearspace-1 satellite will use a pincer motion to collect its targeted object, before giving it a controlled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. And Elecnor DEIMOS will design the Attitude and Orbit Control System (AOCS). This will orientate and position the satellite to help grab the space junk, using power generators, thrusters and antennas.
“Clearspace-1 is the confirmation of our role as a key Guidance, Navigation and Control systems provider in Europe,” said Ismael López, the CEO of Elecnor DEIMOS Group.
“This is a very innovative mission and we are thrilled that the expertise and capacity across our companies match the technology challenges required.”
After the Clearspace mission concept was approved by the European Space Agency a year ago, ClearSpace – a Swiss start-up with expertise in robotics – began co-ordinating the mission. It brought together a consortium of expertise, including Elecnor DEIMOS in the UK, highlights the UK Space Agency.
The Attitude and Control system of Elecnor DEIMOS UK will be integrated in the overall satellite ‘autopilot’. The Guidance, Navigation and Control system is being developed by Elecnor DEIMOS in Portugal, together with other German and Portuguese entities. This consortium will also perform tests to support ClearSpace in the assembly, testing and operation of the mission.
“For fourteen billion years – between the Big Bang and the autumn of 1957 – space was pristine,” said Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency. But since that autumn we have placed nearly 10,000 satellites into the sky, the vast majority of which are now defunct or destroyed.
“The UK is going to lead the way in tracking in tracking and removing this hazardous debris, and I am delighted that technology supporting this pioneering ambition is going to be made in Britain. In 2018, 300km above the Earth, a British satellite – run by removeDEBRIS – successfully deployed a net in orbit to demonstrate how to capture space debris. The demonstration, using a small object sent out by the satellite, formed part of a mission to test techniques to clear up space junk.”
See Surrey Space Centre’s RemoveDEBRIS satellite nets junk
The RemoveDEBRIS satellite was the creation of a consortium of space companies and research institutions led by the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey.
What is the target object? The Clearspace-1 mission aims to remove from orbit the VESPA Upper Part (tracking: www.n2yo.com/satellite/?s=39162) that was launched in May 2013 with the VEGA Flight VV02, carrying the Proba V satellite.
The VESPA Upper Part and the “Small Satellite Interface Structure” that carried Proba V remained attached after Proba’s separation, reports Elecnor DEIMOS.
Just recently, the European Space Agency highlighted the growing problem of space debris. Specifically, that the number of satellites in orbit will significantly increase with the launch of ‘mega-constellations’ for satellite broadband.
As these constellations can comprise thousands of satellites, the risk of collisions and thus more space debris increases.
“Just one collision or explosion in space creates thousands of small, fast-moving small shards of debris able to damage or destroy a functioning satellite,” said the ESA. “For example, in 2007, the intentional destruction of the FengYun-1C satellite doubled the amount of debris at an altitude of about 800 km, leading to a 30% increase in the total population of debris at that time.”
Earlier in the autumn, the UK Space Agency announced funds for projects to tackle space debris. Seven UK companies were awarded a share of £1m of funding to help track debris in space.
The agency estimates that there are currently 160 million objects in orbit – mainly debris – that could collide with satellites providing services we use every day.
The seven projects will develop sensor technology – or artificial intelligence – to monitor hazardous space debris. They are: Lumi Space, Deimos, Lift Me Off, D-Orbit, Fujitsu, NORSS and Andor.
Image: ClearSpace – The ClearSpace-1 mission
See also: Astroscale raises $191m in funding for space debris removal