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German robots 'to clear rogue satellites from Earth's orbit'

An artistic conception of dead satellites and debris in space.

LONDON (PTI): Scientists are mulling to use German-built robots for clearing rogue satellites from Earth's orbit or pushing them into the outer space.

Robots that rescue failing satellites and push "dead" ones into outer space should be ready in four years, British newspaper 'The Observer' reported.

Experts have described the development 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 future of the multibillion-pound satellite communications industry.

But senior figures at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) have said that have been given the go-ahead to tackle a crisis that will come to a head in the next five to 10 years as more orbiting objects run out of fuel.

Their robots will dock with failing satellites to carry out repairs or push them into "graveyard orbits" freeing vital space in geostationary orbit. This 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.Within 10 years that number could increase fivefold, the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety has warned.

Klaus Landzettel, head of space robotics at DLR, said engineering advances, including the development of machines that can withstand temperatures ranging from -170 C to 200 C, 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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