Three years ago, Swiss research institute EPFL announced its plans to build a spacecraft that could grab orbital debris and then carry it back towards Earth, burning up in the atmosphere with it on its way down. Called CleanSpace One,
the satellite was depicted at the time as using a claw-like grasping
tool. Now, however, EPFL has announced that it will utilize a folding
conical net to essentially gobble up bits of space garbage.
Scientists estimate there are 20,000 particles of space junk measuring up at over 10 cm in diameter currently hurtling around the earth at an average velocity of 25,000 km/h, threatening to damage or destroy orbiting satellites. To combat the problem, the German Government has granted the German Aerospace Center (DLR) €25 million to create a system to track space junk as it orbits the earth and the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques (FHR) has been tasked with creating the new system's radar component.
ESA's mission to
mitigate the environmental impacts on low-Earth orbit from mankind's
relentless march into space has entered a new phase, ahead of its
make-or-break review before the ESA's Council of Ministers in
December 2016. The e.Deorbit program would launch multiple
debris-seeking probes into orbit each year, tasked with the removal of
defunct satellites and other potentially hazardous man-made objects
from low-Earth orbit.