There are over 5,000 tons of scattered space junk floating around in orbit above the Earth’s atmosphere. Those debris, numbering over 12,000 and steadily climbing, pose a serious hazard to the growing number of manned and non-manned space missions and cost substantial amount of money and resources to identify, track and classify. Thus, dealing with space junk and cleaning up Earth’s orbit from it, is the smart thing to do both in terms of space-flight safety and in terms of economizing scarce space resources.
More importantly, if we are to ever leave our cradle planet and explore and eventually colonize the galaxy, we must have a safe trajectory on our way out. Thus, a little spring cleaning of our planet’s orbit from the ever growing numbers of space junk is really our only way out.
The Swiss Space Center at EPFL just launched the “Clean Space One” project. The aim is to design and build a satellite that will chase, grab and destroy space trash – namely one of the first Swiss satellites, Swisscube-1 or TIsat-1.