Published: Sun, June 24, 2018
Science | By

RemoveDEBRIS deploys from the ISS

RemoveDEBRIS deploys from the ISS

The deployment of RemoveDebris marks the launch of the largest payload deployed ever from the space station.

Sir Martin Sweeting, chief executive of SSTL, said: "SSTL's expertise in designing and building low cost, small satellite missions has been fundamental to the success of RemoveDEBRIS, a landmark technology demonstrator for Active Debris Removal missions that will begin a new era of space junk clearance in earth's orbit".

Engineers at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom confirmed about 2 hours later that they had contacted the spacecraft from their facilities in Guildford, Surrey, a small town in southern England.

According to Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey and principal scientist behind the mission, researchers hope to see results by the fall. And even then, the harpoon is just a single tool in the veritable Swiss army knife that is RemoveDEBRIS, which also contains a net for catching space debris and a large drag sail for braking and deorbiting itself, each of which needs to be tested separately.


Ideally, RemoveDEBRIS will be the first of many satellites with nets and harpoons to collect space junk.

"We expect to start with the experiments at some point in September", Aglietti told Space.com. "We will need three to four weeks for each experiment". One of the reasons for this, said Aglietti, is because the team wants to also get really sharp, HD video of the entire experiment and for that, "you need to wait for the spacecraft to be in the right position and to have the right illumination".

Airbus helped build three of the four experiments on board the RemoveDebris spacecraft, notes the report. This initiative is the best exemplar of how tiny satellite abilities have developed and how the Space Station can function as a stage for assignments of this scale. CubeSats will be launched from the primary satellite and "watched" through Light Detection & Ranging system and cameras. Finally, RemoveDebris will deploy a large sail that will drag it into the Earth's atmosphere, where it will be destroyed. More experiments will follow in 2019, with the harpoon test scheduled for February. It includes used rockets, defunct satellites and pieces from collisions over the past 50 years of space exploration. The satellite will release net and harpoon to see if these techniques works properly in the weightless conditions and manage to clear debris in space. UK Space Agency spokesperson said.

The European Space Agency (ESA) originally considered using the harpoon and net for its e.Deorbit mission, which will attempt to remove Envisat, a bus-size Earth-observation satellite that died in 2012.

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