Published: Mon, September 24, 2018
Science | By

The British learned to catch space debris network

The British learned to catch space debris network

In a first, a net was able to track down its target in space.

Millions of pieces of junk are whirling around in orbit, the result of 50 years of space travel and few regulations to keep space clean. On September 16th, the group began to proceed with in-space testing.

"We thought technologies like the harpoon or net are relatively low-priced", Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre and principal investigator of the RemoveDEBRIS project, told The Verge after the satellite first launched in April. The harpoon is supposed to hit a 10x10 cm (4x4 inches) target from 1.5 meters (5 feet) away, while the drag sail, once attached to the target, is meant to allow the satellite to de-orbit quicker and burn up faster in the Earth's atmosphere.

"While it might sound like a simple idea, the complexity of using a net in space to capture a piece of debris took many years of planning, engineering and coordination between the Surrey Space Centre, Airbus and our partners - but there is more work to be done", said Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, Director of the Surrey Space Centre.

A group of British researchers in collaboration with the airline's Airbus for six years, planned and developed a new technology for cleaning up low-earth orbit.


If further testing proves equally successful, the RemoveDEBRIS mission will have a large task ahead of it.

A satellite has for the first time collected debris in space. That's more mass than the metal structure of the Eiffel Tower.

Next up for the RemoveDEBRIS system is figuring out how to maneuver the space junk once it's captured.

The spacecraft used a net which expanded like a giant web to capture a deployed target simulating a piece of space debris, scientists revealed a press release.

Analysing and observing potential pieces of debris. "We're not testing the towing part". It was part of a series of trials that will showcase different technologies to remove the redundant hardware also known as space junk now circling the Earth.

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