The European Space Agency is planning to launch a massive claw designed to pluck large pieces of space junk out of the sky and steer them towards the Earth's atmosphere to be burned up.
The agency recently signed a $103 million contract with a Swiss start-up called ClearSpace SA to launch the first version of the system, which is intended to remove a piece of space debris from orbit in what the scientists behind the effort say will be a world's first.
The startup is planning to launch its mission, dubbed ClearSpace-1, in 2025. It will attempt to claw a retired Vespa payload adapter, an ESA-developed rocket part designed to deliver payloads into different orbits, and de-orbit it for disposal.
The spent rocket part, weighing in at 250 pounds, was left at an altitude of around 800 kilometers back in 2013, which is considered to be within the confines of the "graveyard orbit" where retired pieces of satellites are currently dumped.
The claw isn't the only approach to mitigating the problem of space junk. The news comes after a spacecraft built by Northrop Grumman successfully docked to an orbiting satellite in February. The contractor hopes to eventually extend the lives of retired satellites found in graveyard orbits by refueling them or updating their tech.
More on space junk: Space Company Wants to Turn Orbital Junk Into Space Stations