The Earth’s orbit is full of all kinds of floating debris; a growing crowd of abandoned satellites, spent rocket stages, bits of broken spacecraft, and fragments from collisions are rocketing around the planet at breathtaking speeds.
In 2007 China shot down one of its own aging weather satellites, in a kind of target practice in low Earth orbit. The satellite was 500 miles above the Earth’s surface. The explosion created a cloud of debris in space, adding to the amount of “space junk” circling the Earth.
The Swiss Space Center at EPFL is launching CleanSpace One, a project to build the first prototype in a family of “de-orbiting” satellites.