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By 2016, researchers at the Swiss Space Center of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology hope to begin launching a family of small satellites like this prototype, which is designed to clean up space debris that endangers rockets and working satellites in orbit. If all goes according to plan, a CleanSpace One satellite will capture a target with jellyfish-like tentacles, then use its thrusters to hurl itself and the target into the Earth’s atmosphere, where they will burn up on reentry.
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Willie Jones is an associate editor at IEEE Spectrum. In addition to editing and planning daily coverage, he manages several of Spectrum's newsletters and contributes regularly to the monthly Big Picture section that appears in the print edition.