Can this ‘janitor satellite’ clean up space junk?

CleanSpace One could start grabbing and de-orbiting junk in five years.

(Credit:
EPFL)

Swiss scientists believe they have a solution to help tidy up the junkyard of satellites over our heads.

It’s called CleanSpace One and it’s designed to tackle the 17,000-mph mess we’ve made around our planet.

The $11 million “janitor satellite” is under development at the Swiss Space Center in the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology (EPFL). Its target: derelict satellites 430 miles up that threaten our communications and information networks.

There are some 16,000 bits of debris in the near heavens that are larger than 4 inches across. They’re mostly satellite and rocket components hurtling around like hornets in a bag, and they can also endanger the lives of astronauts. The International Space Station has to adjust its orbit to get out of the traffic.

When space junk collides, it only compounds the problem. Three years ago, U.S. and Russian satellites collided over Siberia, generating an estimated 1,000 pieces of new debris at least 4 inches across.

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