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NASA plans to 'knock' space junk out of orbit by firing pulses of gas

London, Fri, 13 Apr 2012 ANI

London, April 12 (ANI): NASA has come up with a radical solution to clean up 'space junk' orbiting the Earth.

There are believed to be 500,000 man-made items of space debris circling the planet at 5 miles per second.

They all travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft, the Daily Mail reported.

There's also a danger of 'cascading collisions', where space debris impact with each other, creating more, smaller pieces of space junk.

Debris belts have already made many orbits unusable.

Now, a team from the University of Michigan is investigating a new technology where 'pulses' of gas will be fired into the path of debris.

The technology would increase 'drag' on orbiting space junk, leaving it to plunge downwards into Earth's atmosphere.

The pulses themselves would leave no trace - and the new method also leaves no solid material in orbit.

Many previous proposed 'solutions' to the problem are open to malfunctions, which could create even more debris.

Other plans include a Swiss 'janitor satellite' designed to 'clean' the space near Earth of space junk.

The satellite will 'grab' lumps of orbiting debris and throw them back into Earth's atmosphere, where they will burn up on re-entry.

CleanSpace One closes in on a discarded 'Cubesat' satellite in an illustration released this week

The proposed new system would be known as the Space Debris Elimination (SpaDE) system - and would aim to remove debris from orbit by firing focused pulses of atmospheric gases into the path of targeted debris. (ANI)

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