The European Space Agency (ESA), together with an industrial team led by a Swiss company, wants to recover space debris for the first time and let it burn up in the atmosphere.
On Tuesday experts from ESA and Swiss company ClearSpace SA are to present the mission, which is scheduled for 2025.
The mission, which the ESA is financing with 86 million euros (102 million dollars), will involve a spacecraft with gripper arms that will capture a piece of scrap metal weighing more than 100 kilograms at an altitude of around 700 kilometres and pull it into the Earth’s atmosphere for incineration.
“Typical examples of space debris are disused rocket upper stages and shut-down satellites, but an astronaut’s lost tools are also among them,” explains the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
However, the majority of this waste is debris from explosions and collisions. According to the ESA, there is scrap metal in orbit weighing around 8500 tons – and the volume is increasing fast.