TAMPA, Fla. — ClearSpace has signed a contract with Arianespace to launch its first debris de-orbit mission on Europe’s Vega C rocket in the second half 2026, the Swiss startup announced May 9.
Luc Piguet, ClearSpace co-founder and CEO, said its 700-kilogram servicer is slated to lift off from French Guiana to low Earth orbit (LEO) as a secondary passenger to a larger payload that has yet to be selected.
Vega C can launch about 2,300 kilograms to a reference 700-kilometer polar orbit.
ClearSpace-1 needs a co-passenger that is compatible with its trip toward a spent upper stage of an earlier version of Vega, left in an 800-kilometer by 660-kilometer altitude gradual disposal orbit following a 2013 launch, which the servicer will attempt to capture with four articulated arms.
Under a 110 million euro ($121 million) European Space Agency contract, ClearSpace will then attempt a controlled reentry to burn up the servicer and 112-kilogram Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (VESPA) in the atmosphere.
Piguet said the ESA contract required ClearSpace to fly with Europe’s flagship launch service provider Arianespace for this mission.
Germany-based Isar Aerospace and Rocket Factory Augsburg are developing rockets promising price and lift performance that could have justified a dedicated launch of a specific orbital injection, he said, but both are still working toward maiden flights.
Vega C successfully performed its maiden flight in July; however, the rocket has been grounded since its second mission failed to reach orbit in December.
Europe plans to return Vega C to flight before the end of this year after pinning the launch failure on an eroded nozzle component.
ClearSpace recently started procuring parts from subcontractors after completing an initial design phase for the ClearSpace-1 mission. Piguet said he expects to start building the servicer next year for integration in 2025.
He said ClearSpace could look to raise a Series B funding round next year to further diversify its capital sources after recently securing about $29 million in a Series A round.
ClearSpace-1 also has a sponsorship deal with Swiss luxury watchmaker Omega.
While Piguet said ESA-backed funding serves as a valuable endorsement, it comes with commercial development constraints, including geographical limits on where ClearSpace can spend the money.
ClearSpace announced the creation of a U.S.-based subsidiary April 17, called ClearSpace Today, Inc., to mark its first expansion outside of Europe.
“Our objective is to start having missions in the U.S., too,” Piguet said, because “if we want to be serious about in-orbit servicing and move on from 2026-2027 … we have to get there with a pipeline of missions that are in progress.”
ClearSpace aims “to be able to launch every year to have a recurring [business] case,” he added, which is needed to “scale up toward commercial operations.”
Piguet said he expects the U.K. to pick either ClearSpace or Japan-based in-orbit servicing rival Astroscale early next year for a British mission to remove two spacecraft from LEO in 2026.
ClearSpace is also seeking co-funding from ESA for a mission to extend the life of a geostationary Intelsat satellite before it runs out of fuel around 2026-2028.