The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a contract with an industrial team lead by Swiss start-up ClearSpace for the world’s first active space debris removal mission from orbit.

As part of the €86m contract, the ClearSpace-1 mission will launch in 2025.

In addition to actively cleaning space, the company demonstrated the technologies needed for future commercial debris removal.

ESA said in a statement: “The ClearSpace-1 mission will target the Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (Vespa).

“This object was left in an approximately 801km by 664km-altitude gradual disposal orbit, complying with space debris mitigation regulations, following the second flight of Vega back in 2013.

“With a mass of 112kg, the Vespa target is close in size to a small satellite.”

ClearSpace is a spin-off company of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

Enterprises in various countries, including Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, Poland, the UK, Portugal and Romania, are also involved in the mission.

ESA was granted the funding to offer a service contract with a commercial provider during the Space19+ Ministerial Council.

The initial mission and contributing key expertise was acquired under the Active Debris Removal/In-Orbit Servicing project (ADRIOS) within ESA’s Space Safety Programme while the remaining funds required for the mission will be raised by ClearSpace through commercial investors.

Earlier this month, ESA contracted Airbus as the lead for the Traceable Radiometry Underpinning Terrestrial and Helio Studies (TRUTHS) A/B1 contract.