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Swiss ‘janitor satellite’ to clean space junk

Lausanne, Switzerland: Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne announced that they are considering launching “janitor satellite,” designed, as its name implies, to clean up space debris. CleanSpace One, as the janitor satellite is being called, costs approximately USD 11 million to build, but the Institute claims it will be worth it.

It is pertinent to mention here that the year 2011 was full of reports that space debris was re-entering the atmosphere and raining down on earth. First came a 12,500-pound decommissioned satellite, which fell in the Pacific Ocean, then a mysterious space ball, which dropped on Namibia, and finally pieces of a Russian space probe crashed somewhere off Chile’s coastline. By September 2011, a report from the National Research Council said, ominously, that space debris has reached a “tipping point.”

More than 500,000 pieces of debris are orbiting earth, according to NASA. And that debris often travels at speeds close to 17,500 miles per hour — so fast that it can inflict major damage when it collides with a satellite or spacecraft. Those collisions only make for more space debris.

To be successful, though, CleanSpace One will have to be able to do three things — match the path of its targeted space junk, grab hold of the debris at high speeds, and then take the debris back into earth, where it would burn on re-entry.

Source: Washington Post