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ClearSpace’s In-Orbit Cleanup Target is Hit by Other Debris 

By Rachel Jewett | August 23, 2023
A rendering of the Clear servicer capturing a derelict satellite.

A rendering of the Clear servicer capturing a derelict satellite. Photo: ClearSpace

A payload adapter that is the target for ClearSpace’s future debris removal mission was likely hit by other space debris, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced on Tuesday. 

ESA reported that a small, untracked object likely collided with the VESPA payload adapter left in-orbit from a 2013 Vega launch — because ESA is now tracking new debris likely from VESPA. Further observation from the U.S. 18th Space Defense Squadron and ESA members shows that the main object is intact and its orbit is not significantly altered.

The VESPA adapter is the target for the upcoming ClearSpace-1 active space debris removal mission. ClearSpace continues to plan the debris removal mission, and said a full analysis of the debris event is underway. 

The company said this shows just how relevant its mission is. “The most significant threat posed by larger objects of space debris is that they fragment into clouds of smaller objects that can each cause significant damage to active satellites,” ClearSpace said in a statement. “To minimize the number of fragmentation events, we must urgently reduce the creation of new space debris and begin actively mitigating the impact of existing objects.”