Swiss scientists plan space clean up

The tidy Swiss want to clean up space.

Swiss scientists plan to launch a "cleaner satellite" specially designed to get rid of space junk, the orbiting debris that can do serious damage to satellites or manned space ships.

The satellite, called CleanSpace One, is being built by the Swiss Space Centre at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne.

Its first tasks will be to grab two Swiss satellites that were launched in 2009 and 2010 but will be phased out.

Nasa says more than 500,000 pieces of spent rocket stages, broken satellites and other debris are orbiting Earth. The debris travels at speeds approaching 28,000km/h, fast enough to destroy or inflict damage on a satellite or spacecraft.

Space junk has collided with satellites at least twice: In 1996, a French satellite was damaged by a rocket fragment, and in 2009, a United States satellite was destroyed in a collision with a derelict Russian satellite.

- AP

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