Giant bin satellite will fly around space eating space debris

Likened to a huge Pac-Man, the solution was the winner chosen from a number of different options

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The Independent Tech

Swiss scientists are planning to launch a huge bin into space, which will fly around eating up satellites to clean up the space above Earth.

The country’s École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) launched its first satellites — the Swiss Cubes — into space in 2010. Now it is launching a new project to go back and grab it, and stop it contributing to the huge amount of “space junk” that is flying around Earth.

It will grab the tiny Swiss Cube in its net, spotting it with specially-developed cameras, and after it has done so the two will blow up together. The scientists behind it hope that the same approach can be used to grab other space junk — which is made up of used up objects like broken satellites and dropped rockets, and is increasing quickly.

The junk can fast become dangerous, since it flies around the Earth at 7km per second and could pose a huge threat to the vast array of satellites and people sat in space. Nasa has to monitor the bigger objects, to ensure that none of them crash into each other.

Scientists and engineers have proposed an array of solutions to the problem, including fitting the International Space Station with huge lasers that could blast away the thousands of tons of debris that is floating around. Other solutions have included sending out big nets or blasting gas at the debris to push it away.

The solutions are required fairly urgently — more and more satellites are in use, potentially crashing into each other as in the film Gravity, which could bring down communications as well as risk people’s lives.

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