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Swiss craft janitor satellites to grab space junk

Wednesday - 2/15/2012, 6:35am  ET

GENEVA (AP) - The tidy Swiss want to clean up space.

Swiss scientists say they plan to launch a "janitor satellite" specially designed to get rid of orbiting debris known as space junk.

The 10-million-franc ($11-million) satellite called CleanSpace One _ the prototype for a family of such satellites _ is being built by the Swiss Space Center at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne, or EPFL.

EPFL said Wednesday its launch would come within three to five years and its first tasks are to grab hold of two Swiss satellites launched in 2009 and 2010.

The U.S. space agency NASA says more than 500,000 pieces of spent rocket stages, broken satellites and other debris are being tracked as they orbit Earth fast enough to damage a satellite or spacecraft.

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