The European Space Agency (ESA) is due to sign a contract on Tuesday with the Swiss start-up ClearSpace for the world's first mission to "remove" space debris.
The start-up will build a 500 kilogram cleaning satellite that will surround the debris with its four articulated arms, in order to deorb them.
A cleaning mission soon to be launched in space.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is due to sign a contract with Swiss start-up ClearSpace on Tuesday for the world's first mission to "clear" space debris, paving the way for a new orbit clean-up market earthly.
It will target a piece of an old European rocket weighing 112 kilos, named Vespa, which was left in 2013 in orbit 800 km from Earth.
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The start-up will build a 500 kilo satellite cleaner, which will initially assess the speed of Vespa.
He will then have to capture his target, encircling it with his four articulated arms, to disorbit it.
Vespa will then disintegrate in the atmosphere, along with its cleaner satellite.
40,000 pieces of debris orbit the Earth
After 60 years of space activity, more than 40,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters orbit the Earth.
These drifting debris sail at 28,000 km / h, the equivalent of a Paris-Marseille traveled in three minutes.
If they one day collide with working satellites, the consequences can be serious, explains Luisa Innocenti, project manager at the European Space Agency.
"If a small piece of debris hits an operational satellite or other debris, it will detonate it. These satellites are used, for example, to have the weather forecast. If the number of debris continues to increase, we will be unable to exploit space."
This service contract, for a total amount of 100 million euros including 86 million invested by ESA, will leave in 2025. It will be the world's first in-orbit cleaning mission, ESA said.