Switzerland to Launch íJanitorí Satellite to Collect Pieces of Space Junk
2013-10-03 0:00

By Timon Singh | Inhabitat

Space junk is an ongoing problem for the worldís space administrations as decades worth of satellite launches and space missions have filled the Earthís orbit with trash such as fuel tanks, lost tools and parts of derelict satellites.

In order to combat this growing hazard and to avoid potentially devastating collisions, the Swiss Space Center at EPFL has launched CleanSpace One, a project to develop and build the first installment of satellites designed specifically to clean up space debris.


Of the thousands of pieces of space junk in orbit, NASA is monitoring at least 16,000 of these objects that are larger than 10 cm in diameter. This is because if they collide with spacecraft or satellites at high speed, massive damage can occur. Not just that, but more junk is created. Enter CleanSpace One.

ďIt has become essential to be aware of the existence of this debris and the risks that are run by its proliferation,Ē says Claude Nicollier, astronaut and EPFL professor. CleanSpace One is the Swiss Space Centerís first prototype in a family of ďde-orbitingĒ satellites. For its first mission, the spacecraft will be tasked with targeting either Switzerlandís first orbiting object, the Swisscube picosatellite which was put in orbit in 2009, or its cousin TIsat, launched in July 2010.

However, it wonít be a simple task. Once in orbit, CleanSpace One will have to adjust its trajectory in order to match its targetís orbital plane. This is not an easy job and the EPFL are curently working on a new kind of ultra-compact motor to do this. Once it is within range of its target (which will be traveling at 28,000 km/h at an altitude of 630-750 km), CleanSpace One will have to grab and stabilize it using a special gripping mechanism. Once this is done, CleanSpace One will ďde-orbitĒ the unwanted satellite by heading back into the Earthís atmosphere, where the two satellites will burn upon re-entry.

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Read the full article at: inhabitat.com




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