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Swiss 'Janitor Satellite' to Clean Space Junk

It will push defunct satellites into the atmosphere to burn up
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2012 10:20 AM CST

(Newser) – Switzerland is on a mean cleaning bender: The fastidious folks at the Swiss Space Center are building a "janitor satellite" that will grab space junk orbiting the Earth and push it into the atmosphere to burn up, the AP reports. The first of these spacecraft, the $11 million "CleanSpace One," is currently under construction and should launch in three to five years, the scientists announced today.

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Obsolete satellites, spent rockets, and other forms of space junk are becoming a real problem; NASA has counted more than 500,000 pieces of debris orbiting the Earth, traveling at speeds of up to 17,500mph. At those speeds, a collision with a spacecraft or functioning satellite could cause significant damage. CleanSpace One won't make much of a dent in that total, at least not initially—it will at first focus on disposing of two specific Swiss satellites. (Read more Switzerland stories.)

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