Swiss design “janitor satellite” to clean up space debris (VIDEO)

Swiss scientists have designed a space-junk-cleaning janitor satellite called CleanSpace One, the Associated Press reported.

There are over a half million pieces of "space junk" circling Earth at 17,500 miles per hour, according to the AP, posing dangers to newer — and more expensive — satellites currently in use.

The Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne designed the satellite, and in a statement on its website, said space junk "is an increasingly pressing problem for spacecraft, and it can generate huge costs."

CleanSpace One works by launching on a rocket, determining the trajectory of a piece of space debris it aims to "deorbit," then approaching the junk by modifying its own course. It then grabs onto the garbage with pincers and soars back into Earth's atmosphere, where it burns on reentry. 

The satellite is small – only 10 cm by 10 cm by 30 cm. But its impact on space safety could be great. EPFL noted, "even a simple paint chip can seriously damage a solar panel or the window on a shuttle. To avoid the largest objects before they get critically close, the International Space Station must constantly alter its orbit. It managed to do this again just recently, on January 29, 2012."

Watch a video of SpaceClean One here:

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