Space junk is increasing at a rate of 5% per year. Luckily, researchers at the University of Surrey have invented a "Cubesail" satellite that will reduce future orbital garbage. Once equipment has done its job, the Cubesail will de-orbit debris.

This Cubesail satellite has a 16.4 ft. by 16.4 ft. deployable "solar sail" that connects to its 6.6 lb., 4 in. x 4 in. x 12 in. body. The Cubesail can be attached to orbital devices and deployed once the equipment has completed its tasks. Best of all, this nano-satellite is ready to go - it'll be equipped to launch equipment starting next year and will begin clearing out future junk starting in 2013.

According to Dr. Vaios Lappas of the Surrey Space Center, the Cubesail will be an efficient way to both de-orbit future launches and clean up present space debris:

Successful deployment and testing of the sail can enable a low cost/mass solution to be used for future satellites and launch vehicle upper stages reducing dramatically the problem of space debris.

Following successful in orbit demonstration, the proposed deorbit system will be offered as a standard deorbit system for Low Earth Orbit missions for satellites with a mass of less than 500 kg at a very low cost.

I really hope this leads to intergalactic cargo cults in which far-off alien cultures worship parachuted artifacts from their faraway gods "Verizon" and "Comcast."

[via Physorg]