Swiss start-up ClearSpace SA signs €86 million contract with ESA for the world’s first debris removal mission

Swiss start-up ClearSpace SA signs €86 million contract with ESA for the world’s first debris removal mission

(PRESS RELEASE) PARIS, 26-Nov-2020 — /EuropaWire/ — The European Space Agency (ESA), an intergovernmental organisation of 22 member states dedicated to the exploration of space, has announced it signed a €86 million contract with an industrial team led by the Swiss start-up ClearSpace SA for the first removal of an item of space debris from orbit. As a result, in 2025, ClearSpace SA will launch the first active debris removal mission, ClearSpace-1, which will rendezvous, capture and bring down for reentry a Vespa payload adapter. Journalists are invited to follow an online round table for media on Tuesday, 1 December, at 13:30 CET. Mission experts will give an overview of the project status, explain the ambitious mission design and detail the next steps leading to launch.

A new way to do business for ESA

At ESA’s Space19+ Ministerial Council, ministers granted ESA the funding to place a service contract with a commercial provider for the safe removal of an inactive object from low Earth orbit. Following a competitive process, an industrial team led by ClearSpace SA – a spin-off company of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) – was invited to submit the final proposal. With this contract signature, a critical milestone for establishing a new commercial sector in space will be achieved. Purchasing the mission in an end-to-end service contract, rather than developing an ESA-defined spacecraft for in-house operation, represents a new way for ESA to do business. ESA is purchasing the initial mission and contributing key expertise, as part of the Active Debris Removal/ In-Orbit Servicing project (ADRIOS) within ESA’s Space Safety Programme. ClearSpace SA will raise the remainder of the mission cost through commercial investors.

Vespa target is close in size to a small satellite

The ClearSpace-1 mission will target the Vespa (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter). This object was left in an approximately 801 km by 664 km-altitude gradual disposal orbit, complying with space debris mitigation regulations, following the second flight of Vega back in 2013. With a mass of 112 kg, the Vespa target is close in size to a small satellite.

In almost 60 years of space activities, more than 5550 launches have resulted in some 42 000 tracked objects in orbit, of which about 23 000 remain in space and are regularly tracked. With today’s annual launch rates averaging nearly 100, and with break-ups continuing to occur at average historical rates of four to five per year, the number of debris objects in space will steadily increase. ClearSpace-1 will demonstrate the technical ability and commercial capacity to significantly enhance the long-term sustainability of spaceflight. The mission is supported within ESA’s Space Safety Programme based at the agency’s ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

Involvement of European industry in ClearSpace-1

Companies from a wide range of European countries are involved in the ClearSpace-1 mission. While the lead for the industrial team lies with ClearSpace SA, contributions come from enterprises in Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, Poland, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Romania.

Programme on Tuesday, 1 December

13:30 CET – 14:30 CET: Online round table for media


  • Jan Wörner, ESA Director General
  • Rolf Densing, ESA Director of Operations
  • Eric Morel de Westgaver, ESA Director of Industry, Procurement & Legal Services
  • Holger Krag, Head of ESA’s Space Safety Programme
  • Luisa Innocenti, Head of ESA’s Clean Space Office
  • Luc Piguet, CEO of ClearSpace SA
  • Muriel Richard-Noca, Chief Engineer of ClearSpace SA
  • Renato Krpoun, Head of the Swiss Space Office
  • Martin Vetterli, President of EPFL

The participants will each give short statements before journalists get the opportunity to ask questions.

Media registration

Journalists are invited to register at the following link by Monday, 30 November:

Details to join the online round table will be provided after registration.
The briefing will be in English.

For further questions, please contact

Further information

ClearSpace-1 Media Kit:

ESA’s clean space activities:

ESA’s space debris activities:

ESA’s space safety activities:

Space debris in numbers:

More information about ESA:

ClearSpace SA:


Terms and conditions for using ESA images:

For questions or more information related to ESA images, please contact directly


Terms and conditions for using ESA videos:

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About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia and Latvia are Associate Members.

ESA has established formal cooperation with six Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

Learn more about ESA at

For further information:

ESA Newsroom and Media Relations Office – Ninja Menning
Tel: +31 71 565 6409

SOURCE: European Space Agency


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