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Publié le 03/07/2021

This project wants to "clean up" space by salvaging end-of-life satellites. The craft must intercept the debris and divert their orbit so that they will disintegrate in the Earth's atmosphere.

The company

From the EPFL Space Center, ClearSpace has made the elimination of broken satellites and debris orbiting the Earth a priority. Currently, their number is estimated at 3,000 and 34,000 respectively by the European Space Agency (ESA), not counting those less than 10 centimeters impossible to observe from the ground. However, at a speed of 28,000 km / h, these objects represent a real danger for space activities and astronauts. The search for solutions is becoming urgent, especially as thousands of new satellites will be launched in the years to come.

Looking for space debris

In December 2019, an industrial team, led by the Lausanne start-up, was chosen by ESA (European Spacial Agency) to lead the ADRIOS program. Estimated at 100 million euros, the mission must develop technologies for capturing and deorbiting space debris. The stakes are high for the young start-up created in 2018! “After the euphoria phase, the whole team realized the weight of responsibility. Over the past few months, we have set up a solid project and found the industrial partnerships we needed ”, summarizes Luc Piguet, CEO and co-founder of ClearSpace. About the size of a large washing machine and weighing nearly 400 kilograms, the satellite will function as a tow truck. He will identify a piece of debris, approach it and intercept it. A feat, knowing that the satellites move at a speed of 7 km / second at this altitude! Once slowed down, the object will fall from its orbit and disintegrate in contact with Earth's atmosphere. The launch of the robot is scheduled for the end of 2024 and the first deorbitation for the end of 2025. ClearSpace and its partners, the EPFL eSpace space center and the Institute for Information and Communication Technologies at HEIG-Vaud, received an Innosuisse grant of 1.4 million CHF. Collaboration with Alliance was instrumental in drafting the business model and securing federal funding. This amount allows the development of the radar integrated into the satellite, which will have to determine the distance at which the debris is located and the way in which it moves.