25th of September, 2020
DEIMOS Engenharia, Elecnor DEIMOS in Portugal, leads the international team that will develop the guidance, navigation and control systems of the Clearspace-1 mission, in the frame of the European Space Agency (ESA) ADRIOS programme. ADRIOS is the first European space debris removal mission, with a launch scheduled for 2025.
Clearspace – the sustainability of space exploration
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. Soon after, the company began the industrial procurement for the various technologies required for the satellite. The consortium led by DEIMOS Engenharia 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.
‘Clearspace-1 is the confirmation of our role as a key GNC subsystems provider in Europe’, 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’.
Nuno Ávila, DEIMOS Engenharia’s Director, adds: ‘This is the natural outcome of a long R&D path working in GNC for non-cooperative rendezvous. We have been consolidating this technology area for more than 10 years and we will be able to qualify it with a very special mission that will initiate a new era of Space services’.
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 Europe’, 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.
Cleaning space – a priority
Today, there are more than 34 000 man-made objects measuring over 10 cm in diameter in orbit around the Earth and more than 2000 operational satellites and this number might double or even triple in the next five years.
The accumulation of space debris particularly in low-earth orbits is one of the most pressing threats to the long-term sustainability of space operations, as it poses a series of risks and costs ranging from loss of the payload, launch delays and radio interference to light pollution for astronomic observations. The expected increase in launches and satellites in the next decade will only heighten these risks, so removing man-made space debris today is essential to ensure the viability of space technology and exploration.
About Clearspace-1 Mission
Within the ESA ADRIOS programme, the Clearspace-1 mission will remove from orbit the VESPA Upper Part (tracking: https://www.n2yo.com/satellite/?s=39162) that was launched in May 2013 with the VEGA Flight VV02, carrying the Proba V satellite. The VESPA Upper Part and the “Small Satellite Interface Structure” that carried Proba V remained attached after Proba’s separation.
The signed contract value is the highest in Deimos Engenharia history and ranks among the largest contracts of Deimos Group. It is broken down into five phases with the first one lasting 9 months. At the end of this first phase the service architecture will be consolidated, allowing detailed design and engagement of other suppliers to start in the following phase. Operations are slated for 2025 for the first removal of an object from space paving the way for the commercial service that will follow.
ELECNOR DEIMOS is expanding and many opportunities are arising for brilliant engineers aiming for an exciting career in space (https://elecnor-deimos.com/jobs/).
Clearspace-1 Mission illustration (credits: Clearspace)
The VESPA Module (credits: ESA)
VESPA removal with Clearspace-1 illustration (credits: Clearspace)