London, March 28 (ANI): Scientists in the UK have developed a device to clear dangerous clouds of debris from the Earth's orbit.
The team plans to launch a demonstration of their CubeSail at the end of 2011.
It is a small satellite that deploys a thin 25-sq-m plastic sheet. Residual air molecules present in the spacecraft's Low Earth Orbit (LEO) will catch the sheet and pull the object out of the sky much faster than is normal.
The Surrey Space Centre team says the concept could be fitted to larger satellites and even rocket stages.
The group also envisages that a mature system would even be sent to rendezvous and dock with redundant spacecraft to clean them from orbit.
"Our system is simple and very low cost; but we need to demonstrate that it can be done," the BBC quoted Dr Vaios Lappas, lead researcher on the project and senior lecturer in space ehicle control, as saying
"It would help make space a sustainable business. We want to be able to keep on launching satellites to provide new services; but unless we do something, the amount of junk up there is going to grow exponentially."
It is believed that more than 5,500 tonnes of junk now clutters the region of space just a few hundred km above our heads.
In 2009, two satellites even collided, showering their orbit with tiny fragments that now pose additional risk to operational spacecraft. (ANI)