Target of the space debris removal suffered from a collision with other debris

The VESPA payload adapter, which was supposed to be the target for a space debris removal mission, could have suffered a collision with another piece of space debris. This was reported by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Debris removal ClearSpace in the artist’s image. Source: ClearSpace

In 2020, ESA signed a contract worth 86 million euros with the Swiss startup ClearSpace SA. It has committed itself to carrying out the first ever mission to actively de-orbit a fragment of space debris. In the future, this technology can be used to combat other objects that pose a danger to existing spacecraft.

The choice of ClearSpace fell on the VESPA — payload adapter installed on the upper stage of the Vega rocket. It was used at the launch of the Proba-V satellite in 2013. The mass of the adapter was 112 kg, it was in orbit with a perigee of 660 km and an apogee of 800 km. Experts chose VESPA because of the combination of a relatively simple shape and a robust design, which should have simplified the task of its de-orbiting.

But it is possible that now ClearSpace will have to change its plans. On August 22, ESA announced information received from the 18th Space Control Squadron of the US Air Force. It detected the appearance of several objects near VESPA. Apparently, their source is the adapter. Experts believe that they were formed as a result of their collision with another fragment of space debris.

So far, the ESA has not reported how many fragments have separated from the adapter. It is also unknown how this incident will affect the ClearSpace mission. According to experts, they will need several weeks to carry out the analysis. After that, a decision will be made on the possibility of changing the purpose of the mission. At the moment, its launch is scheduled for 2026.

According to

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