There’s one thing that the space race is certain to have caused and that is space junk. The Swiss EPFL Center for Space Engineering are working to fix that with the launch of its next mission called CleanSpace One.
CleanSpace One is designed to pick up after the EPFL’s last launch of its tiny SwissCubes and get them out of orbit, stopping them from threatening any other satellites or astronauts.
The reason the cleaning satellite has been nicknamed “Pac-Man” is because of the solution it uses to trap the satellites with a conical net, that said just finding the 4×4 inch satellites will be extremely difficult, in order to find them EPFL will be using a high dynamic-range camera and an image processing system to spot bright reflections that should be coming from the SwissCubes.
In order to capture them the Pac-Man satellite uses a con-shaped net that will unfold and then close back down on its targeted SwissCube. The researchers say “this system is more reliable and offers a larger margin for maneuvering than a claw or an articulated hand.”
Once Clean Space One has finally gobbled up all of the SwissCubes it will be free to de-orbit and burn everything during its journey back to earth.
The team working on the satellite has now passed the prototype phase and aims to be launched by 2018.
Watch the video below for a quick explanation.