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Space junk hit by more space junk, says ESA


A piece of space junk has collided with a bigger object of orbiting debris, which ironically was the target of European space clean-up mission. Yet again, the space agency is underlining the importance of its mission.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that several pieces of debris were detected next to a payload adapter called Vespa, which has been in low Earth orbit since launch in 2013. It was launched from ESA’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The new debris most likely originated after an untracked piece of space junk collided with the two-meter-diameter Vespa adapter, weighing 113 kilograms.

Information about the collision was provided to the ESA by the US Space Force’s 18th Space Defense Squadron, which controls the space surveillance network. An investigation of the incident is still ongoing, but the current assessment indicates that the adapter is intact and has experienced “no significant alteration to its orbit.”

The Vespa payload adapter is the target of the upcoming ClearSpace-1 active space debris removal mission, which aims to remove debris from Earth’s orbit. The development of the ClearSpace-1 mission will proceed according to the original plan as further data regarding the junk collision incident is gathered.

Importance of space cleanup

In the wake of the junk collision, the ESA underlined the importance of its orbital clean-up mission. According to the agency, the most significant threat posed by large space debris is their potential to break apart and form ‘clouds’ of smaller objects, that could seriously damage operating satellites.

“To minimize the number of fragmentation events, we must urgently reduce the creation of new space debris and begin actively mitigating the impact of existing objects,” writes the ESA.


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