Solar Sail to Clean Up Space Junk

'CubeSail' designed to drag orbiting debris to fiery reentry
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2010 7:46 AM CDT
"We need to start equipping our satellites today so we can start to solve the problem," the project leader said. "It would be good for us not to mess up space the way we've messed up our planet."   (AP Photo/ESA)
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(Newser) – British scientists have devised a way to get rid of some of the 5,000-plus tons of space trash orbiting the earth and endangering satellites and astronauts. The team's CubeSail—a plastic sail utilizing high atmospheric gases and solar radiation—is designed to drag dead rockets and satellites out of orbit into the atmosphere, where they will burn up.

The 250-square-foot sail, which packs into a shoebox-sized nanosatellite, will have a trial run next year and its makers believe it will eventually become a standard attachment for rockets and satellites. With further refinement, the sail could be adapted to get rid of old junk circling the planet as well as stopping space trash from growing at its current 5% a year, Discovery News notes.

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