krou writes "A team from Surrey Space Centre has developed a device called a CubeSail, designed to be attached to satellites and rocket stages in order to drag space debris from orbit. CubeSail is a nanosatellite, weighing 3kg (6.6lb), and measures 10cm x 10cm x 30cm. Within its frame is a polymer sheet that unfurls itself once in space. 'The simple deployment mechanism features four metal strips that are wound under tension and will snap into a straight line when let go, pulling the sheet flat in the process.' The overall idea is that 'Residual air molecules still present in the spacecraft's low-Earth orbit will catch the sheet and pull the object out of the sky much faster than is normal.' Sir Martin Sweeting, the chairman of SSTL, who supported the research, said, 'We would be looking to put it on our own satellites and to put it on other people's spacecraft as well. We want this to be a standard, essential bolt-on item for a spacecraft; and that's why it's very important to make it small, because if it's too big it will interfere with the rest of the spacecraft.' The team is also hoping that CubeSail can act as a propulsion system, using 'solar sailing' to help satellites keep their orbits more efficiently."
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