An artistic impression of the servicer ClearSpace-1 approaching the space debris object VESPA during the ClearSpace-1 mission to take place in 2026.
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Thousands of tons of debris—including old satellites and rocket capsules—orbit our planet. And each new bit of space junk is making it harder for new missions to navigate Earth’s orbit. “The solution is actually quite straightforward,” says Luc Piguet, co-founder and CEO of Swiss company ClearSpace. “Like for highways, you need a tow truck.” ClearSpace has developed a drone with robotic grippers, sent into orbit to capture detritus. Once it’s taken in its haul, the drone slows down its orbiting speed, dropping into the planet’s atmosphere and burning up, junk and all. The European Space Agency has already contracted ClearSpace for a future mission, while a second clean-up has been commissioned by the UK Space Agency.

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