Cleanup on Orbit Five

(Image courtesy

(Image courtesy

What to do with all the manmade debris cluttering up our orbital space and endangering our satellites? Send Space Pac-Man up there to gobble it up:

A new entry to de-litter Earth orbit is the CleanSpace One project, spearheaded by researchers from eSpace, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne’s (EPFL) Center for Space Engineering and Signal Processing 5 Laboratory and HES-SO University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland.

Their intent is to trap a small satellite — SwissCube — tossed into space in late 2009. SwissCube is a joint cubesat project of various laboratories at EPFL and universities in Switzerland.

This small cubesat-type satellite, measures just 4 inches by 4 inches (10 centimeters by 10 centimeters). Barring an unforeseen event, SwissCube’s demise has been programmed for 2018.

The size of SwissCube makes it tough to grasp, but it also has darker and lighter parts that reflect sunlight differently, explains Christophe Paccolat, a PhD student working on the concept.

CleanSpace One could be launched as early as 2018 in collaboration with the company S3, headquartered in Payerne. The engineering team is reporting a major step forward in designing an approach and capture system — a so-called “Pac-Man” solution.

The prototype CleanSpace One resembles a net in the form of a cone that unfolds and then closes back down once it has captured the small satellite. It will trap the small satellite and the two would combust together in the atmosphere.

It’s no WALL·E but it’s still worth looking into.