As the world becomes more connected, with the promise of internet access in the most remote places on Earth and the IoT revolution making homes and workplaces smarter, space infrastructure has become more essential for our daily lives. Everything from telecommunications and internet access to GPS, weather reports, flight radar, and observation of pollution levels and deforestation on Earth rely on space technology. Combined with humanity’s thirst for exploring the Universe, and the renewed focus of state and commercial agencies towards human settlements on the Moon or Mars in the coming decades, and one quickly realises the importance of space in the future .
As EPFL is a key player in innovation in Switzerland, eSpace is continuously developing research programs and initiatives in space technologies with these future applications in mind. Thus, one of our goals is to promote our achievements and help transferring them to the industry and the public domain or to encourage entrepreneurship.
eSpace is a member of Space Innovation’s network. Space Innovation is an entity located at EPFL and ETH Zürich building on the multi-domain relevance of space technologies to support the development of disruptive innovation projects in the space sector.
Space Innovation gathers more than 40 institutions in its members’ network. It is made of numerous academia, industries and research & technologies organizations (RTOs) with space-related activities.
One of the core missions of Space Innovation is to involve societal actors in the development of space technologies by establishing and supportive innovative projects with its members and partners. It also aims to strengthen Switzerland’s capabilities and to enable space technologies to contribute to sustainable development through its established network and access to cutting-edge technologies.
Success story: from CleanSpace One to ClearSpace
Former EPFL research project CleanSpace One perfectly illustrates this innovation philosophy. In 2019, it became ClearSpace, a start-up company chosen by the European Space Agency (ESA) to lead the ADRIOS (Active Debris Removal / In-Orbit Servicing) activities, developing technologies to capture and de-orbit space debris. The ClearSpace-1 mission will involve recovering a now-obsolete Vespa Upper Part, a payload adapter that once formed part of the Agency’s Vega payload rocket.
Eight ESA member states have pledged funding for the ClearSpace-1 mission, and the budget was approved at the Space19+ Ministerial meeting in Seville, Spain, in late November. ESA has signed an €86 million contract with the industrial team led by ClearSpace in December 2020. Work has already started and the removal of the VESPA adapter is planned for 2025.