Rendering of satellite in Low Earth Orbit. Credits: ClearSpace

ClearSpace Strengthen The Collab With The British Space Agency

ClearSpace announced that it has secured another contract with the UK Space Agency for the innovative in-orbit satellite refueling mission called REFUEL.ME

On February 20, 2024, the Swiss start-up ClearSpace announced a new contract with the British Space Agency to deepen the details of the feasibility of an in-orbit satellite refueling mission, an innovative and unrealized concept. The project is called REFUEL.ME and the study session will be conducted until September 2024. This project makes it possible to extend the operational life of satellites, ensuring higher quality and more sustainable management of space resources, thus reducing the need for expenses caused by frequent replacements and contributing to the reduction of space debris generated by out-of-service satellites.

ClearSpace currently has a leading position in the on-orbit space services industry. Their current focus is on the UK branch, rapidly expanding as they are developing the CLEAR spacecraft (Clearing the LEO Environment with Active Removal) designed for the UK’s debris removal mission.


CLEAR mission

The ClearSpace’s satellite will be launched into orbit to join existing satellites to solve the problem of an increasingly congested space environment. Robotic capabilities and an adaptive capture system will allow not only to repair failed satellites but also to refuel them or divert their trajectory from other objects if there is a risk of collision.

Rendering of the congestion of satellites located in Low Earth Orbit. Credits: ClearSpace
Rendering of the congestion of satellites located in Low Earth Orbit. Credits: ClearSpace

As a matter of fact, what may seem like a simple collision between a piece of debris and a satellite or between two satellites is in reality an enormous problem which translates into the creation of countless pieces of debris of all dimensions which would jeopardize the safety and integrity of functioning satellites. The pollution of Earth’s orbits, especially the low Earth orbit, is the primary threat to maintaining sustainability as there are currently an estimated 900,000 objects larger than 1 cm traveling without control.

The CLEAR mission is tasked with removing two or more inactive UK satellites that have been located in a highly congested region of LEO for over 10 years. Without innovations in active debris removal technology, it is estimated that these satellites will remain in orbit for a century before naturally re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

ClearSpace is committed to making humanity’s space operations sustainable. The funding received from the UK Space Agency to establish our national refueling capabilities, to extend the lives of satellites in-orbit, represents a joint ambition for the UK to be at the forefront of the emerging in-orbit servicing market.”

— Roly Holmes, ClearSpace UK Managing Editor


Collaboration with ESA

ClearSpace received funding from the European Space Agency in 2020 for an active space debris removal project. ESA has invested 86 million euros in the Swiss company for the development of ClearSpace-1, a mission scheduled for 2026 that aims to remove a 112 kg VESPA adapter left in orbit by a Vega launch in 2013, which coordinates are perigee at 660 km altitude, apogee at 790 km and an inclination of 98.72 degrees. Once ClearSpace-1 has locked onto the piece, both will deorbit and completely disintegrate.

An unexpected event also occurred, as the European Space Agency announced on August 10, 2023, that the space debris that would have been collected during the first ClearSpace mission was probably hit by another debris. Initially, it was thought that the collision could have caused a fragmentation of the larger object, producing further debris. Despite it being a preoccupation that began in reality, numerous tracking conducted by the US 18th Space Defense Squadron revealed that the main object remained intact and had experienced no significant alteration to its orbit. Therefore the ClearSpace-1 mission will proceed as agreed, barring new events.

This mission highlights the urgent need to minimize fragmentation episodes which generate new space debris, and actively begin to mitigate the impact of existing objects.


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Beatrice Romeo

Beatrice Romeo

Master student in Aerospace Engineering.
Ocean activist and kitesurfing athlete.

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