Swiss-Made Satellite To Clean Up Space

Space is filling up with junk and the Swiss are not very happy about it. They would like to make space look like the bedroom your mother always wanted you to maintain. To achieve this, they are launching a satellite to clean up space junk. The satellite has been christened CleanSpace One.

An artist's impression of CleanSpace One (Courtesy: AFP/Getty Images)

The Swiss space center at Ecole Polytechnique (EPFL) at Lausanne wants to make this ‘janitor satellite’ to clear space of all the dead rocket bits, the different booster stages and pieces of old satellites. There are more than a million shreds of junk out there, orbiting at 18,000 mph, each posing threats ranging from mild to severe.

The satellite will be launched in another 5 years and is expected to cost SFr 10 million (SFr = Swiss Franc) or $11 million.

A Big Problem!

To give you a sense of how serious the problem of junk is, we need consider the US satellite Iridium-33. It exploded when the obsolete and abandoned Cosmos-2251, a Russian satellite, hit it in Feb, 2009. This in turn created more fragments of junk, which may turn out to be just as disastrous in future.

CleanSpace One will pursue junk pieces and then grab them with a robotic hand. After it has cleaned up most of what it intended, it will just drop down through the atmosphere, burning up much before it reaches Earth, incinerating the junk along with itself.

Just the beginning…

And this is just the first step, says EPFL. Says Volker Gass, director at the space center, on the EPFL website:

We want to offer and sell a whole family of readymade systems, designed as sustainably as possible, that are able to de-orbit several different kinds of satellites.

Watch out space junk, here come the Swiss!

Published by

Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.