Clearspace-1 is the first space mission exclusively dedicated to the removal of an object in orbit, planned for launch in 2025. It is being developed under ESA’s ADRIOS programme and is a first step towards a cleaner Earth’s orbit.
The mission was approved at ESA’s Ministerial Council in November 2019, after a competitive process that selected the mission concept presented by ClearSpace, a Swiss start-up that spun-off the EPFL after years of research in Space debris and robotics. Soon after, the company began the industrial procurement for the various technologies required for the satellite.
The consortium led by DEIMOS Engenharia, Elecnor DEIMOS in Portugal, was the one selected to develop the technology that will control all the satellite movements – the so-called Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) systems.
Elecnor DEIMOS in UK will provide the Attitude and Orbit Control Subsystem, known as the AOCS, responsible for the orientation and position of the satellite, so it can orient correctly its power generators, thrusters, payloads and antennas.
The consortium is also composed by Lusospace and ISQ (both Portuguese entities) and DLR in Germany. Altogether, the team led by DEIMOS will develop the satellite ‘autopilot’ and perform all tests to support ClearSpace in the assembly, integration, testing and operation of the mission.
For DEIMOS, this the natural outcome of a long R&D path working in GNC for non-cooperative rendezvous, supported by the Portuguese Space Agency PT Space, the UK Space Agency UKSA, and ESA programmes. “Clearspace-1 is the confirmation of our role as a key GNC subsystems provider in Europ,”, says Ismael López, the CEO of DEIMOS Group. ‘This is a very innovative mission and we are thrilled that our expertise and capacity match the technology challenges required’
As for Portugal Space, the involvement of Portuguese companies in Clearspace-1, with the lead of DEIMOS Engenharia, is a way to “assure that Portugal can gain a long-term competitive advantage in one of the greatest challenges of our time,” states Ricardo Conde, President of the Portuguese Space Agency. “Europe is taking the lead in ensuring that space debris are not a source of disruption to our economy, way of life and well-being, and Portugal, which is working to take a leading role in space systems and subsystems, could not fall behind.”
‘We want UK companies to be at the forefront of efforts to find creative solutions to the growing challenge of space debris, which threatens satellites and the vital services they are responsible for “says Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency. “Clearspace-1 is a game-changing new mission to complete the first ever removal of a real piece of debris from orbit and, thanks to our investments in the European Space Agency’s Space Safety programme, it will take with it the exceptional expertise of DEIMOS UK.”
“Beyond the UK based developments in GNC allowing for an effective attitude control of our drone, the operations of the ClearSpace-1 mission will be led from the UK’, says Luc Piguet, the CEO of ClearSpace. ‘UKSA paves the way to a new sustainable approach to Space operations. Our multiple UK partners play a critical role in the ClearSpace-1 mission.”