Swiss Plan 'Janitor' Satellite To Clean Up Space Junk

February 16, 2012


Note: Article edited to reflect it's SWITZERLAND that's responsible for the project, not Sweden. After skimming the article I thought Sweden and wrote Swedes, NOT because I thought Swedes come from Switzerland. Derder, Switzers come from Switzerland.

The Swiss, best known for hot chocolate mix and utility knives, plan to launch a series of "janitor" satellites into orbit to clean up some of the space junk left behind from humanity's short-sightedness. *kicking beer cans off coffee table* "You do know you're gonna have to pick those up later, right?" Am I?

The proliferation of debris orbiting the Earth - primarily jettisoned rocket and satellite components - is an increasingly pressing problem for spacecraft, and it can generate huge costs. To combat this scourge, the Swiss Space Center at EPFL is announcing today the launch of CleanSpace One, a project to develop and build the first installment of a family of satellites specially designed to clean up space debris.

Based on the graphic, it looks like each janitor satellite is basically on a suicide mission. They just grab a piece of space-junk, then throw themselves into the atmosphere to burn up. But what about those 16,000 smaller pieces? You know what we need to collect those? Magnets. Do magnets work in space? SPOILER: Yes. Consider this your science lesson for the day. "I can see your penis." Ha, that's your anatomy lesson. "And the rash?" *bell ringing* Welcome to health class!

Hit the jump for another conceptualization of the satellite that looks suspiciously like something you'd see a roadie pushing around backstage and a video about the project.


Cleaning up Earth's orbit: A Swiss satellite to tackle space debris [epfl]

Thanks to Pesche, who agrees we should probably call Superman and get his rates before committing to this whole janitor satellite thing.

  • so you send up a multi stage rocket with a robot that grabs one thing then falls to earth...makes sense

  • jeffen kustze

    Wouldn't it be better to leave them floating around and wait till there's a time we can easily pick up those obsolete sattelites and recycle them in space? Say, a new space station that'll be able to cut down on the total of launches (and money!) needed to be completed by recycling a bunch of them.

    It costs tons of money just to get those heaps of metal in space and burning them up doesn't seem like the best option to me ^^ collecting them temporarily for easy access to space debree to recycle in the future is the way to go IMO. They're monitoring large pieces of debree anyway so 1 new thing to dodge that collects more and more debree.. why not

  • See, he does listen.

  • Emmitt Morgans

     So why is this satellite not named Roger Wilco!?

  • Emmitt Morgans

     No responses to that one at all!?

    Man... you guys all SUCK at being geeks...

    *whistles 'Space Quest' theme as he walks away*

  • Come on, I probably am the only swiss reader you have... and now THIS? I never thought of every american as an ignorant dipshit who can not tell the difference between sweden and switzerland... GW, switzerland is engineering and watches... sweden is ikea and beautiful blondes with boobs!!!!

  • cocoa


  • Jan Brinkerhoff

    ya, it's the swiss that are doing this, not the swedes (switzerland, not sweden)

  • Ivan

    space wall-e...

  • If manufactured by the Swiss, will it have to be assembled in orbit, possibly with an extra screw or two left over?

  • You're thinking of Ikea - that's Swedish and not Swiss.

    Do you think he heard me?
    It's very clever though, but I'd just use a huge net.
    Or lasers.
    Now that would be cool!

  • Kanein Encanto

    Seems like lasers really would be the way to go, get in a slightly higher orbit than a satellite or piece of junk, hit it with some high-powered laser pulses and it's trajectory would take it into the atmosphere. Then the satellite would be able to take down a lot more junk than a 'suicide janitor'

  • I'm going to say that taking something out of space, only to put it into the ocean.... not a good idea. Not by a long shot. Up there, it's clutter, down here, it's toxic waste that is not being disposed of, only relocated. 

  • Leonidas Argidisouvlaki

    Not familiar with the concept of "burning up in the atmosphere", are we?

  •  I'll still stand by my initial statement. "Burning up in the atmosphere" doesn't make it any less toxic, often it makes it more so.

  • Kanein Encanto

    Also, there's the issue of Kessler syndrome to worry about.

    Unless you don't like having cellphones, gps, weather forecasting...

  • Jamin Grahovac

    The Swiss or the Swedes?? Which?

  • Evan Westervelt

    it says is only 30 x 10 x 10 cm. that is pretty small. i thought satelites were fairly large. like car sized. how is that teeny thing gunna bring something like that out of orbit unless it hits it going 600 miles an hour.

  • Leonidas Argidisouvlaki

    "These larger pieces of debris measure at least 10 centimetres wide". Pay attention.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Previous Post
Next Post