At any given time, NASA is keeping track of about 16,000 pieces of space junk in Earth's orbit — and those are just the big chunks. This debris poses a serious safety hazard, primarily to operational satellites in the planet's orbit, but also to astronauts like those on board the ISS. In fact, according to some NASA models, the amount of crap orbiting our planet may be reaching a dangerous tipping point — one that could make space travel prohibitively risky.

That's where CleanSpace One comes in. CleanSpace is a Swiss satellite concept, designed to snatch up pieces of space junk and yank them out of orbit — dragging them back in the direction of Earth on a one-way trip that ends miles above the planet in a fiery ball of atmospheric flame.

"We want to offer and sell a whole family of ready-made systems, designed as sustainably as possible, that are able to de-orbit several different kinds of satellites," said Swiss Space Center Director Volker Gass. "Space agencies are increasingly finding it necessary to take into consideration and prepare for the elimination of the stuff they're sending into space. We want to be the pioneers in this area."

[Discovery News]