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Earth is surrounded by a cloud of more than half a million pieces of space junk, from bus-size spent rocket stages to tiny flecks of paint. Orbiting at breakneck speeds, every last bit poses grave dangers — and means huge insurance premiums — for operational satellites, and it threatens the International Space Station, too. Every time two orbiting objects collide, they break up into thousands more pieces of debris.To combat this growing headache, Swiss scientists and engineers have come up with a solution: CleanSpace One, a project to build the first in a family of so-called "janitor satellites" that will help clean up space. The prototype space junk cleaner will be a rectangular satellite nearly 12 inches (30 centimeters) long and about 4 inches (10 cm) tall and wide.Slated to launch as early as 2015, CleanSpace One will rendezvous with one of two defunct objects in orbit, either the Swisscube picosatellite or its cousin TIsat, both 61 cubic inches (1,000 cubic cm) in size. When the janitor satellite reaches its target, it will extend a grappling arm, grab it and then plunge into Earth’s atmosphere, burning up itself and the space junk during re-entry.CleanSpace One is being designed and built at the Swiss Space Center, part of the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne, or EPFL. Scientists there are developing the micro- and electric propulsion systems that will enable CleanSpace One to grab hold of space junk as the two objects zip around Earth at 17,500 mph (28,000 kph).