To combat the scourge of orbiting space debris, the Swiss Space Center at EPFL is announcing today the launch of CleanSpace One, a project to develop and build the first installment of a family of satellites specially designed to clean up space debris.
GENEVA (AP)—The tidy Swiss want to clean up space.
scientists said Wednesday they plan to launch a “janitor satellite”
specially designed to get rid of orbiting debris known as space junk.
10-million-franc ($11-million) satellite called CleanSpace One—the
prototype for a family of such satellites—is being built by the Swiss
Space Center at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne,
said Wednesday its launch would come within three to five years and its
first tasks are to grab two Swiss satellites launched in 2009 and 2010.
U.S. space agency NASA says over 500,000 pieces of spent rocket stages,
broken satellites and other debris are being tracked as they orbit
debris travels at speeds approaching 17,500 miles per hour (28,000
kilometers per hour), fast enough to destroy or inflict costly and
time-draining damage on a satellite or spacecraft. Collisions, in turn,
generate more fragments floating in space.
has become essential to be aware of the existence of this debris and
the risks that are run by its proliferation,” said Claude Nicollier, an
astronaut and EPFL professor.
Building the satellite means developing new technology to address three big problems, scientists say.
first hurdle has to do with trajectory: The satellite has to be able to
adjust its path to match that of its target. EPFL said its labs are
looking into a new ultra-compact motor that can do this.
the satellite has to be grab hold of and stabilize the debris at high
speeds. Scientists are studying how plants and animals grip things as a
model for what would be used.
finally, CleanSpace One has to be able to take the debris, or unwanted
satellites, back into Earth’s atmosphere, where they will burn on
Space Center’s director, Volker Gass, said it hopes to someday “offer
and sell a whole family of ready-made systems, designed as sustainably
as possible, that are able to de-orbit several different kinds of
SOURCE: The Associated Press