Space Janitor to clean up junk: In a promising update on the alarming space junk problem, Swiss scientists plan to…

Space Janitor to clean up junk: In a promising update on the alarming space junk problem, Swiss scientists plan to launch CleanSpace One by 2015. Measuring only 12 inches long, this device will rendezvous with the defunct Swisscube satellite, grab it and drag it down to the atmosphere so they burn up together. It’s a low budget prototype that is a step in the right direction.

Great video via Jeffrey Marsh CleanSpace One – a Swiss satellite to tackle space junk

I’m tagging everyone who participated in the original conversation, let me know what you think!

Originally shared by Rajini Rao

Space Litter: When does the garbage pick up truck come?

It’s getting crowded up there: 15,000 pieces of junk plus 1000 active satellites, and counting.

โ€ข Sources include defunct satellites, rocket stages used to place satellites in orbit, bolts and other mission-related debris, and fragments from the intentional or accidental breakup of large objects. Also, the rare failed spacecraft that has stalled in orbit, such as the Russian Phobosโ€“Grunt probe that just crashed to earth.

โ€ข The single largest debris generating event was in 2007, when China destroyed its polar orbiting satellite with a missile, resulting in 3000 trackable objects and 150,000 fragments of >1 cm size.The accidental collision of the Russian Cosmos 2251 and US Iridium 33 satellites in 2009 was responsible for another jump in space debris in 2009. Together, these two events effectively wiped out all space debris mitigation efforts until then (see graph, image 2).

โ€ข The risk of collision and damage at low earth orbit (<2000 km) is now at a few percent, comparable to other types of satellite failure like electrical defects. The Kessler syndrome describes a potential domino effect or feedback runaway (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kessler_syndrome). Space elevators, listed in the recent BBC poll as one of the top 20 predictions for the next 100 years, would almost certainly intersect with this debris.

Read more:http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2012/01/14/where-did-all-that-space-debris-come-from/

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33 Responses to Space Janitor to clean up junk: In a promising update on the alarming space junk problem, Swiss scientists plan to…

  1. Rajini Rao says:


    Well, if the junk fell toward earth it would not be a problem-the friction with our atmosphere would burn up all the small items. How do we turn this magnet on? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Rajini Rao says:


    No, no..we need a space vacuum, get it? ๐Ÿ˜‰


  3. Rajini Rao but will this sort of things blend? ๐Ÿ˜‰


  4. A sign of a child’s development is its mastery of potty training which is an extension of almost every animal’s instinct not to foul its own nest.


    Looking at this picture I’m afraid that any potential cosmic neighbour will write us off as a civilisation that is not even toilet trained.

  5. Rajini Rao says:


    Hahaha! Andy Gray , those sneaky Swiss stole the idea from Buck Henry?


  6. Vincent Murphy Amen brother. Time to stash the trash and move toward being a Type 1 civilization.

  7. Rajini Rao says:


    Kristina B. My understanding is that the positions/numbers are accurate (and actively tracked), not the size of the particles themselves. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Rajini Rao says:


    Although, I saw a post today about a huge pile of floating debris, in the ocean off Hawaii, that was twice the size of Texas ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

  9. Rob Hufman says:


    The only bad thing about that image it that it makes it look much more crowded than it really is. Yes we’ve got lots of junk up their that we need to get into lower orbit so it burns up, but its not like you’re hitting something every 5 inches either.

  10. Rich Pollett says:


    Unfortunately not a new problem I have had a fondness for stating the problem and the sense of humor by Arthur C. Clarke some years ago. http://www.astrobiology.com/adastra/clarke.html

  11. Rajini Rao says:


    PGP Protector , I think that’s because the picture is in 2D so everything is going to be collapsed and look more concentrated. Check out this 3D depiction: http://www.space.com/9818-expanding-danger-space-debris-fragmentation.html


    Rich Pollett +1 for Arthur C Clarke! Old problem but new solution, no? I’ve not heard of other remediation attempts in practice.

  12. Norman M. says:


    Bring items back on Earth and sell them on ebay.

  13. Rich Pollett says:


    Unfortunately none that I know of Rajini Rao. This is a great idea and a university project.


  14. Kristina B., if only they could. The trash floating in that huge “trash swirl” in the Pacific are tiny tiny pieces that you can only see up close. These pictures will show you what I mean:


    http://animal.discovery.com/birds/ocean-gyre-birds/albatross-ocean-gyre-birds-pictures.html

  15. Dayrk Flaugh says:


    What, no mention of Mega Maid from Spaceballs?

  16. Rajini Rao says:


    Dayrk Flaugh , does she wield a Mega space vacuum? Who is this admirable lady? ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Rajini Rao says:


    Great link, Tom Lee . How did I miss that one?

  18. Tom Lee says:


    You’ve been busy with your Valentine’s rose garden. ๐Ÿ™‚ Rajini Rao

  19. Rajini Rao says:


    Flares over flowers, Tom Lee ! I need to get my priorities straight ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Dayrk Flaugh says:


    That’s it, Rajini Rao!


  21. As we are concerned about ecological protection on our planet, same way we should address the space litter cleaning also to pave way to extend the possibility of further space studies by nexgen……


  22. Rajini Rao What are you doing collecting space debris? …smiling …I thought you were managing synapses and neural situations …..smiling ….fantastic post. Like a sticky frogs tongue we will snap it all up. Question is will we ever stop doing it in the first place?

  23. Sabin Iacob says:


    Leaving aside the space junk problem, the real interesting part to me are the miniature motors and grappling devices that are being developed for that; those could have an impact both on Earth and in space ๐Ÿ˜‰

  24. Rajini Rao says:


    Peter Lindelauf . an apt analogy: our trash hovers around us like so many planetary fleas. Sabin Iacob , the video mentioned that the grappling arms were inspired by down to earth biology.

  25. Sabin Iacob says:


    Come to think of it, their solution could be improved to not burn with the debris, just collect it, slow it down enough that it enters the atmosphere fast and release it; then use on-board radar to detect other objects, lock on to them, repeat.


    The first generation of these could just send the data to the ground to have bigger computers work out the math, subsequent ones may be decently autonomous (just check with ground control that the thing it detected is indeed junk).


    Space Roomba FTW ๐Ÿ˜€

  26. Rajini Rao says:


    Is that right, Sabin Iacob ? If their speed is decreased, their orbits will decay into the atmosphere? That sounds good..some sort of tractor beam (!) to decelerate a chunk just enough.

  27. Sabin Iacob says:


    The main forces that act on the stuff in orbit are gravity, pulling them towards the planet, and centrifugal force, pushing them away; the math used for the precise modelling of these things is more complicated (and it’s been a long time since I used it), but the general principle is that the forces need to be equal for the object to stay “up”.


    Since the centrifugal force is proportional with the square of the tangential speed, if you slow the object down gravity will win and altitude will decrease; in vacuum, the path taken would be elliptical and speed would increase again due to gravitational acceleration, and under some circumstances it could stay in a more oblong elliptical orbit.


    However, as you get closer to Earth you start to encounter significant drag from the upper layers of the atmosphere, so speed will decrease even further instead of increasing, and the object will fall to the surface (and usually disintegrate).


    I hope I’m making sense ๐Ÿ™‚


  28. Rajini, the volume of space trash has grown since I saw it last. Reminds me of what Rte. 715 South McMichaels, PA looks like. Keep up the good work.

  29. Rahul Joshi says:


    I sincerely hope somebody could also help clean up the Ganges and Yamuna! ๐Ÿ˜›


  30. Makes me proud to have Swiss in my blood – lousy Hapsburgs!

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