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article imageSwiss scientists building 'janitor satellite' to clean space junk

By Andrew Moran     Feb 15, 2012 in Science
Geneva - Swiss scientists are sick and tired of the mess up in space orbiting the planet. This is why they are launching a "janitor satellite" called CleanSpace One, which is designed to help clean up space from all of the debris and junk.
For years now, Digital Journal has reported on space debris (may not be the most exciting news of space we have ever reported). One of the many reports came in 2010 when an international group warned to the United Nations that future space missions could be at jeopardy due to all the space debris that surrounds the planet.
It is estimated that there are trillions of space debris piececs and four million pounds of space junk. Most of the debris in space is made up of fragments of collisions, broken spacecraft bits and abandoned satellites. It was reported at the time that the United States Air Force is only tracking a little more than 13,000 objects.
Does the clutter in space bother you? Do you want to tidy it up? Well, a group of Swiss scientists are fed up and are establishing a “janitor satellite” to clean up all of the space debris that surrounds the Earth.
A chunk of space junk that fell to Earth.
A chunk of space junk that fell to Earth.
CleanSpace One is a project developed by the Swiss Space Center that will create a series of satellites that will remove space debris, according to a press release. The plan is to have the launch within the next five years.
The project’s team leaders have selected one of two targets for its launch, which is symbolic for Switzerland: the Swisscube picosatellite, the country’s first orbiting object, or its cousin, TIsat, which was launched in July 2010.
How would it work? It would follow five key steps: launch (1), ejection (2), approach (3), rendezvous phase (4) and grappling (5). The space caretaker would travel 28,000 km/h (17,398 mph) at an altitude of between 630 (391) and 750 km (466 miles) and then the CleanSpace satellite would grab the object and stabilize it.
It’s believed the first mission would be destroyed, but researchers want to create an entire family of “ready-made satellites” that are able to de-orbit various kinds of satellites. The scientists say they want to be the “pioneers in this area” as space agencies want to eliminate the stuff they send into space.
“It 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 Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) professor.
The project is estimated to cost approximately 10 million Swiss francs ($10.83 millionUSD).
Over the years, the issue of space debris has become a pressing issue for not just space agencies but for many developed countries, including the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted in January that space debris threatens the space environment.
The European Union has discussed the possibility of establishing rules in space discovery, operations and travel.
More about cleanspace one, janitor satellite, Space debris, Space junk, nearearth objects
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