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EPFL's CleanSpace One: clearing up cosmic clutter (video)

Joseph Volpe, @jrvolpe
February 16, 2012
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Where are Lone Starr and Barf when you need'em? Would that those two (fictional) interstellar handymen-for-hire were real, space agencies like Switzerland's own, could outsource the tricky and costly intergalactic housekeeping that's fast becoming a high-priority. Instead, the famously neutral country is investing 10 million Swiss francs (about $10.8 million USD) into the production of a new breed of satellites dedicated to the collection and destruction of orbital debris. The project, dubbed CleanSpace One, will tackle one of two Swiss-borne, celestial objects -- the SwissCube or Tiasat -- for its initial mission, slated for some time within the next three to five years. While our very own NASA has proposed the use of a laser to redirect these non-operational and potentially hazardous craft, the brains over at EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute for Technology) are in the process of developing a micro-electric propulsion system, in addition to a retrieval mechanism for the unit. So, what'll happen to both this outer space Rosie and her doomed cargo? Well, rather unfortunately, it's a suicide mission, as both are destined for burn-up on re-entry. Yes, it's a rather grim end to an otherwise noble voyage, but such is the price of our scientific spring cleaning.





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