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Space is littered with debris. ClearSpace is ready to clear 21,000 pieces of it

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Space debris
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Space debris

The earth is littered with plastics and waste material and the space too has about 21,000 pieces of at least 10 centimeters in size of debris, according to the US Defense Intelligence Agency. That is not all, there are some 3000 defunct satellites orbiting the Earth, posing grave danger to every space mission. Now, a Swiss startup, ClearSpace, has taken the task of clearing the debris. The startup was selected for the mission by the European Space Agency following a competitive tender. It will embark on the project in March after submitting final proposals. (Text: Bloomberg) (Pic: ClearSpace)

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How ClearSpace finds the debris
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How ClearSpace finds the debris

The company was founded by researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne and their motto is "Find, Capture, Remove, Repeat". The startup designs satellites which find, capture and remove non-functioning or unresponsive satellites from their orbits in space. The startup traces objects in Earth's orbit via telescope or radar technology. The orbit of the object is calculated and then either linked to a satellite or to a collision that is about to take place. CleanSpace One plans to search the area with sensors to find the position of the debris, get its location, find and capture it. (Pic: ClearSpace/YouTube)

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Catching that object
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Catching that object

These objects called VESPA are non-cooperative satellites, which do not have a GPS so they can be seen and controlled. There can be a chance of such objects damaging other functioning satellites. The startup worked for years to master the capture mechanism. According the ClearSpace, a smaller satellite is more difficult to observe from a distance compared to capturing a large satellite. Though, requirements to capture the smaller satellites are similar to that of catching a big satellite most of the times. (Pic: ClearSpace/YouTube)

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Clearing the space rubble
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Clearing the space rubble

Once the object is captured ClearSpace will lock and ensure its re-entry in a controlled manner. The objects re-entry will be chosen with precision so that it does not cause any damage to other satellites or air traffic. The non-cooperative satellites decompose in the upper atmosphere due to heat generated as they re-enter the earth's atmosphere at orbital speeds. As they decompose, several break-up pieces follow their own trajectory, making a relatively long footprint. CleanSpace One is a microsatellite of relatively small size, and thus its break-up pieces will be burnt before touching the ground. (Source: ClearSpace) (Pic: ClearSpace/YouTube)

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Let's recycle satellites
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Let's recycle satellites

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), there are more 8,100 metric tonnes of man-made objects in space. The cost of launching a 1 kg object in space can cost anything between $3,000 and $50,000. Even though the cost of launching a satellite is going down with each passing year it is becoming vital for recycle the defunct satellites. ClearSpace wants to take a step in that direction and give solutions so that this can be made possible in the near future.

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