Swiss To Grapple Junk For Removal
rating: 0+x


February 15, 2012:

The École Polytechnique Féderalé de Lusanne (EPFL) in Switzerland has announced a proposal to help clean up the problem of debris in space.

They are planning to build and launch a prototype "de-orbiting" satellite called CleanSpace One. The proposed satellite would match orbits with an obsolete satellite, grapple it with a huge claw, and then nudge it out of orbit so that both would safely disintigrate in the atmosphere.

Although CleanSpace One will be destroyed with it's target satellite the engineers hope to use it as a stepping stone to develop sustainable systems capable of de-orbiting several different types of satellites.

The projected launch of CleanSpace One is sometime in 2015-2016.


1. Cleaning Up Earth's Orbit - original EPFL press release
2. Swiss to Grapple Space Junk for Removal — contains more information about space debris and comments discussing the Swiss plan and alternatives.

Game and Story Use

  • In a space-based game, space debris will be a major problem. Mention of scavenger-bots patrolling low orbit to keep the spaceways clean could be an interesting piece of background information.
    • This is particularly likely if there has been a lot of space based combat (or orbital warfare) in the area, either of which could create a significant debris hazard.
  • Operating a scavenger satellite isn't the most glamorous of jobs, but even PC's have to start someplace.
    • Remember the old TV series, Quark? Probably not. Richard Benjamin played the captain of a garbage scow in space.
    • Probably a good way to end up accidentally stealing the bomb as you scoop up something that was hidden amongst other debris - or just lost in a handling accident. Or even something dangerous from the past that never officially existed.
  • In a campaign set Twenty Minutes Into the Future, the players could be members of a team trying to safely de-orbit a satellite
  • A scavenger satellite might make a useful improvised weapon under the right circumstances - perhaps to destroy an enemy satellite or an ICBM warhead - either in the party's hands or by villains holding the GPS or satellite communications infrastructure to ransom.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License