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07 October 2013

Switzerland to Launch 'Janitor' Satellite

To Collect 370,000 Pieces of Space Junk From Earth's Orbit

Satellite will throw debris into Earth's atmosphere to burn up on re-entry It will launch in 2018 using a three-stage process involving a A300 jetliner There are as many as 370,000 pieces of space junk floating in Earth's orbit

Swiss scientists will launch a 'janitor' satellite with flexible tentacles that could sweep up space junk within five years.

CleanSpace One will be sent to remove thousands of bits of jettisoned rocket and satellite components orbiting our planet at speeds of more than 28,000 km/h.

The satellite will get hold of orbiting debris and throw it back into Earth's atmosphere, where they will burn up on re-entry.

The CleanSpace One satellite's mission will be to clean up the thousands of bits of jettisoned rocket and satellite components orbiting Earth at speeds of more than 28,000 km/h

The debris orbiting Earth has become an increasingly serious problem. Last year, a Nasa report said that the amount of space junk orbiting earth had reached a 'tipping point'.

In practical terms, this means that the amount of junk floating around the planet will make it difficult for spacecraft to leave the planet.

'We've lost control of the environment,' said retired Nasa senior scientist Donald Kessler, who authored the report.

Last year, Ecole polytechnique federale de Lausanne (EPFL) announced its intention to design and launch CleanSpace One.

There are around 22,000 objects in orbit that are big enough for officials on the ground to track and countless more smaller ones that could do damage to human-carrying spaceships and valuable satellites

The group have now come a step closer to their goal by entering into a partnership with Swiss Space Systems (S3).

S3 is developing a new method to launch satellites weighing up to 250 kg, and will take charge of CleanSpace One's launch, now scheduled for 2018.

The company said it will invest $20million in the project and will launch the satellite into orbit.

There are around 22,000 objects in orbit that are big enough for officials on the ground to track and countless more smaller ones that could do damage to human-carrying spaceships and valuable satellites.

Getting to and seizing the ex -satellite is a formidable feat of engineering.

A three-phase launch Swiss Space Systems - S3 is now the Prime partner in this project. The company, headquartered in Payerne, Switzerland, is developing a new launch method for small satellites up to hundreds of kilograms in weight. It plans to send a small shuttle rides on top of an Airbus A300 jetliner.

CleanSpace One's mission is to grab hold of a piece of space junk - in this case an out-of-commission Swiss nanosatellite measuring 10cm on each side - and thrust it into the atmosphere, where it will burn up

When the plane reaches cruising altitude, this Suborbital Reusable Shuttle (SOAR) will start its engines and take off upwards.

When it reaches an altitude of 80km, it will eject a vessel, which after reaching an altitude of 700 km, will releases the satellite into Earth's orbit.

According to the company, the three-phase process will cut launch costs by a factor of four. And to make sure that this doesn't end up putting even more space debris in Earth orbit, S3 will ensure that all the elements in the chain include their own re-entry systems.

The company plans to launch CleanSpace One in 2018 and said the satellite design is on the right track.

The design is slighter larger than originally planned, and will weigh about 30 kg. 'You can't democratise space access without having a responsible attitude,' said Pascal Jaussi, chief executive of Swiss Space Systems.

'If we don't deal with the problem of orbiting space debris and its accumulation, future generations' access to space will be compromised.

It is estimated that there are as many as 370,000 pieces of space junk floating in Earth's orbit, traveling at speeds of up to 22,000 mph

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