There is a lot of junk in space which now circles our planet – 7.500 tones, to be more exact. The space junk is a hazard, some of the debris travels at more than 17,000 miles per hour. It can be fatal to future missions, to the International Space Station, to astronauts and satellites that are sent to Earth’s orbit.
And, just like on Earth, we must clean up space, but how? With a tiny satellite called CubeSat that has been modified and upgraded to be a RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft, developed by the University of Surrey scientists.
This satellite has a net and a harpoon to grab the space junk and send it towards Earth. No need to worry, it’s supposed to burn up in the atmosphere.
Cleaning The Space
According to Advocator, the team behind RemoveDEBRIS tested its net a few days ago to see how it works in space. The moments were captured in a video and posted on Twitter and YouTube (link below). It shows the satellite as it fires a web at a shoebox-sized object which tumbles 6-8 meters away. The web extends and wraps around the object.
The director of the Surrey Space Centre, Prof. Guglielmo Aglietti stated:
“It worked just as we hoped it would. The target was spinning like you would expect an uncooperative piece of junk to behave, but you can see clearly that the net captures it, and we’re very happy with the way the experiment went.”
He added that this technology is relatively low-cost and can help clean up space.
The harpoon is on board of the RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft, and it can spear objects. It also has a drag sail to slow down debris and send them down to Earth. The team plans to test the harpoon next year in February.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launched supplies and experiments to the ISS, also carrying the RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft. The Texas-based company NanoRacks developed the deployer on the satellite, posting on Twitter the video with the successful test, adding: “This is not sci-fi. We repeat, not sci-fi.” Surrey Nanosats SSC Mission Delivery Team also posted the video on Youtube, and you can watch it here.
Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.