OMEGA Joins ClearSpace to Clean Up Space
Renens, Switzerland – January 13th 2022. ClearSpace SA is working to rid space of dangerous debris comprising left-over rockets and defunct satellites. Now, Swiss watchmaker OMEGA, manufacturer of the first watch worn on the Moon, is joining with the Lausanne start-up as the first partner for the upcoming debris removal mission.
In 2019, ClearSpace was selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to fly the ClearSpace-1 mission to remove from orbit part of a European Vega rocket in 2025. It will be the world’s first in-orbit clean-up mission, according to ESA, and now OMEGA will support ClearSpace’s pioneering endeavour.
“OMEGA has participated in the most innovative space exploration missions of the past 60 years. We are delighted to welcome such a large-scale partner,” explains Luc Piguet, CEO and co-founder of ClearSpace. “Ensuring safety in space to avoid collisions and the proliferation of space debris is a priority as it has been announced that more than 30,000 satellites are expected to be launched by 2030.”
For OMEGA CEO Raynald Aeschlimann, “The ClearSpace initiative is one of the most important, inspiring and exciting projects since the launch of the Apollo missions.” He called the partnership, the “next logical step for a brand with a long history of space exploration and preservation of the Earth.”
In 2025, it will be 68 years since the world’s first satellite, the Soviet Union’s ‘Sputnik’ was lofted into orbit in 1957. Since then, more than 12,000 satellites have been sent into space. Spaceflight has since generated hundreds of millions of pieces of debris, including spent rocket stages, defunct or end-of-life satellites, and fragments of explosions and collisions. Today, ESA estimates there are over 36,000 debris objects larger than 10 cm in orbit, any one of which could damage or destroy a functioning satellite. Consequently, ESA is setting a leading example by significantly reducing the number of debris orbiting the Earth and aims to become ‘debris neutral’ by 2030.
The risk of collision in orbit is rapidly increasing, exacerbated by the large number of satellites now being launched as part of constellations. In the event of a collision, newly generated fragments could further endanger astronauts or destroy operational satellites used for telecommunications, GPS services, tsunami and other disaster warning systems, climate monitoring and weather services, among others, as existing debris already do today. As collisions multiply, entire regions of space could become unusable.
Safely deorbiting debris
The goal of the ClearSpace-1 mission is to rendezvous with a 112-kg Vega payload adapter, called ‘Vespa’, about the size of a small car, capture it and then conduct a controlled deorbiting maneuvre. The mission will employ a four-armed pincer mechanism to grab the uncontrolled target, which is spinning, and, once captured, the spacecraft-plus-Vespa will safely re-enter Earth’s atmosphere where it will be burned up like a large ‘shooting star’.
The cost of this mission to demonstrate the feasibility of in-orbit clean-up missions is estimated at €110 million, of which € 86 million will be invested by ESA.
Following the start of the collaboration with OMEGA as a mission partner, the search for additional partners continues in Switzerland and abroad.
ClearSpace is leading a commercial consortium to build the satellite. Eight countries are involved as well as a number of Swiss and European companies.
“I am delighted to see yet another partner supporting the ClearSpace-1 mission” said Luisa Innocenti, Head of the Clean Space Office at ESA. “This reconfirms the strong value of developing technology to clean up the orbital environment and helps put European industry in the global lead.”
ClearSpace is developing technologies to capture and deorbit obsolete objects threatening space operations and provides in-orbit services to support institutions and commercial operators to accomplish their space sustainability. In 2020, ClearSpace signed a service contract with the European Space Agency worth 86M€ for the first space debris removal mission, in 2025.
The prestigious Swiss watchmaker OMEGA was founded in 1848 and is recognized today as one the world’s leading timepiece manufacturers. For more than 170 years, OMEGA has been synonymous with quality, innovation and precision, defined by its pioneering spirit and conquests of the oceans and space – including its famous association with NASA and its role aboard every human mission to the moon.