The ESA’s space junk collection plan involves shooting large nets at derelict satellites

The collision of American satellite Iridium 33 with Russian satellite Kosmos-2251 in 2009 created thousands of pieces of space debris larger than four inches in diameter. At the time, NASA insisted the International Space Station (ISS) was safe, while China suggested its satellites were threatened. Two years later, ISS had to perform a avoidance maneuver to put itself at a safe passing distance from incoming debris caused by the collision.

Some 29,000 pieces of space debris larger than four inches in diameter are known to orbit Earth, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). The number of smaller particles reaches well into the hundred-millions. Every time a satellite explodes or some debris collides with another, that figure grows in a domino effect that may one day lead to a scenario known as the Kessler syndrome, in which debris is so prolific that orbit becomes unfeasible.

ESA is intent on addressing this problem by actively removing large objects of debris from orbit through an initiative called Clean Space. The initiative’s first mission, e.Deorbit, will involve using either a net or a robotic arm to capture one of ESA’s derelict satellites in low orbit and burn it up in an atmospheric reentry.

The agency has just revealed a net gun designed for the e.Deorbit mission by Polish company SKA Polka. A small version of the gun has been tested on a parabolic flight that simulates microgravity and has proven to be affective against low-flying aerial drones at ESA’s Industry Days event in May.

Projected to launch in 2023, Clean Space’s e.Deorbit mission will mark the first proactive effort to safely remove debris from space – a task that will only become more essential in the years to come.

Emerging Tech

New simulation shows how Elon Musk’s internet satellite network might work

Elon Musk has the dream of building a network for conveying internet traffic via thousands of satellites. A new simulation created by a computer scientist looks at how feasible the idea is.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

Ancient continent discovered beneath the ice of Antarctica

Antarctica could be hiding the remains of a long-lost continent. Scientists created a 3D map of the crust beneath the Antarctic ice sheet which shows a similarity to the crust in Australia and India, suggesting they used to be joined.

Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier

Few things instill a sense of wonder quite like the final frontier. The best space photos show off the beauty of Earth, our solar system, and the far corners of the universe. Here are our current favorites.
Emerging Tech

Watch this lab-grown heart tissue beat just like the real thing

A team of researchers in Germany have used stem cells to create a lab-grown human heart tissue which actually beats, as well as responding to drugs in the same way as the real thing.
Emerging Tech

Shipping crate filled with 3D-printing robots may be the future of construction

Autodesk has created a robot-filled shipping container which may represent the future of construction work. The crate contains two robots able to 3D print custom components for building sites.
Emerging Tech

Michigan’s former transportation chief has some advice for wannabe smart cities

After 31 years as Michigan’s transportation director, Kirk Steudle has seen it all, particularly with smart city projects. He spoke with Digital Trends recently about what makes smart cities work, and offers advice along the way.
Emerging Tech

Sticking these tiny needles in your eye may help fight blindness

An eye patch covered in tiny needles sounds like a torture device. In fact, it's a potential new medical treatment for eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Bottle-flipping robots may be the most millennial thing we’ve ever seen

Until drones start vaping, you're unlikely to see anything more millennial than a recent contest in Japan in which robots competed to pull off some seriously impressive bottle-flipping feats.

Car parts maker ZF is using drones to deliver components to its factories

ZF recently became the first entity in Germany to receive approval to use drones to deliver spare parts, and the company now uses them to deliver parts from its central warehouses to its workshops.
Emerging Tech

Meet the 4K selfie drone that folds like a book, follows you like a paparrazzo

Having a drone that could follow you everywhere while taking high-quality images without crashing has been a flight of fantasy. With ZeroZero's Hover 2, not only can you have a fully autonomous 4K selfie drone, you can have it for $400.
Emerging Tech

These Alexa-stuffed retro phones don’t listen until you take them off the hook

Looking for an Amazon Echo with a cool vintage touch? Los Angeles-based Grain Design is taking old, non-working antique phones and transforming them into amazing Alexa smart speakers.
Smart Home

This alarm clock uses targeted light and sound to wake you, but not your partner

The Wake v2 isn't like your typical bedside alarm. Instead, it wakes you by shining a soft light directly into your face, thereby not disturbing the person sharing a bed with you. Pretty smart, huh?
Emerging Tech

This exosuit can turn humans into strong lifting machines

A company called Levitate Technologies has developed a fire-resistant upper body exoskeleton that’s capable of lowering exertion levels by up to 80 percent when you carry out manual work.