German robots to clear rogue satellites from Earth's orbit

      Scientists are set to employ German-built robots for fixing 'dead satellites' into Earth's orbit or push them into outer space. According to reports, robots that rescue failing satellites and push "dead" ones into outer space should be ready in four years. Experts have hailed the feat by German scientists as a crucial step in preventing a disaster in the Earth's crowded orbit. Last year it was reported that critical levels of debris circling the Earth were threatening astronauts' lives and the future of the multibillion-pound satellite communications industry. However, officials at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) have revealed that they have been given the go-ahead to tackle the crisis, which would come to a head in the next five to 10 years as more orbiting objects run out of fuel. Thus, they are creating robots that will dock with failing satellites to carry out repairs or push them into "graveyard orbits", freeing vital space in geostationary orbit, reports The Observer. Geostationary orbit is the narrow band 22,000 miles above the Earth in which orbiting objects appear fixed at the same point. More than 200 dead satellites litter this orbit and the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety has warned that within 10 years that number could increase fivefold. Klaus Landzettel, head of space robotics at DLR, said engineering advances, including the development of machines that can withstand temperatures ranging from -170C (-274F) to 200C (392F), meant that the German robots will be "ready to be used on any satellite, whether it's designed to be docked or not".

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