A satellite designed to scoop up debris and rocket parts is to be launched by Swiss scientists to clean up space.
CleanSpace One would act almost like a vacuum cleaner and is the first installment of a family of satellites designed to clear up debris.
It is being built by The Swiss Space Centre at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) - a top science university.
According to EPFL, "16,000 objects larger than 10cm in diameter and hundreds of millions of smaller particles are ripping around the earth at speeds of several kilometres per second".
"It has become essential to be aware of the existence of this debris and the risks that are run by its proliferation," said Claude Nicollier, an astronaut and EPFL professor.
Space Centre spokesman Jerome Grosse said two options are being considered for the cleaning satellites.
One is a machine that scoops up debris and then burns itself up in Earth's atmosphere.
The second is a model capable of retrieving the debris, which is then ejected into the atmosphere while the cleaner remains in space.
"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," centre director Volker Gass said.
"Space agencies are increasingly finding it necessary to take into consideration and prepare for the elimination of the stuff they are sending into space. We want to be the pioneers in this area."