Swiss aim to launch first space cleaner
GENEVA (AFP) ― Swiss scientists announced Wednesday plans to develop a machine that acts almost like a vacuum cleaner to scoop up thousands of abandoned satellite and rocket parts, cleaning up outer space.
The Swiss Space Center at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), a top science university, announced the launch of CleanSpace as the first installment of a family of satellites designed to clear up space debris.
According to EPFL, "16,000 objects larger than 10 centimetres in diameter and hundreds of millions of smaller particles are ripping around the Earth at speeds of several kilometres per second."
"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 EPFL professor.
The space center said it was moving beyond rhetoric to "take immediate action to get this stuff out of orbit."
Center spokesman Jerome Grosse said two options are being considered for the cleaning satellites. One is a machine that scoops up debris and then burns itself up in Earth's atmosphere.
The second is a model capable of retrieving the debris, which is then ejected into the atmosphere while the cleaner remains in space.