JUL 01, 2018 04:32 PM PDT

RemoveDebris Spacecraft Will Test Nets and Harpoons for Space Junk Cleanup

One of the most pressing issues to threaten future space exploration is the presence of space junk. It continues to clog up the limited space surrounding our planet, and unless we find a way to clean it up, it could make navigating a rocket into deep space too risky to attempt.

Fortunately, many of the best minds in space science are working together to solve this problem sooner rather than later. The latest attempt involves a small and experimental satellite dubbed RemoveDebris, and it’s already orbiting the Earth after being ejected from the International Space Station.

Here we see the RemoveDebris satellite ejecting from the International Space Station.

Image Credit: NASA/NanoRacks/Ricky Arnold

While there are many ideas for cleaning up space junk, RemoveDebris promises to attempt one of the most cost-effective and primitive means of doing so: launching harpoons with nets at targets.

Once the projectile contacts a target, it should begin to decelerate, hopefully deorbiting it and forcing it to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere upon re-entry. Of course, it’s all theoretical at this point; RemoveDebris could be the first step toward proving the effectiveness of this method.

"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," said Sir Martin Sweeting of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.

Related: Japan's attempt to clean up space junk proves unsuccessful

RemoveDebris is a proof of concept mission, so it won’t hunt down real space junk just yet. Instead, the satellite will merely pop off a couple of dummy CubeSats that the targeting system will then attempt to capture with its harpoon and net. These missions will take place in September and October of this year.

Assuming everything goes well, future spacecraft may deploy similar technologies that work in tandem with the International Space Station’s new Space Debris Sensor (SDS) to collect and mitigate space junk around Earth.

Indeed, the future looks bright for space exploration.

Source: Universe Today

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
OCT 23, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 23, 2018
NASA Fixes Hubble's Gyroscope Issue, Tests Planned for Near Future
On October 5th, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope experienced a troublesome gyroscope malfunction. Onboard software attempted to rectify the issue by kic...
OCT 24, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 24, 2018
The Importance of Removing Space Junk From Low-Earth Orbit
Space junk is a growing concern among space agencies all around the globe. Countless pieces of space junk surround the Earth in low-Earth orbit, and when t...
NOV 19, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 19, 2018
Kepler Scientists Reflect on the Now Retired Mission
NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope recently ran out of fuel, preventing it from aligning its antenna toward Earth and maintaining communication. NASA knew...
DEC 03, 2018
Space & Astronomy
DEC 03, 2018
SpaceX Sends 64 Satellites Into Space All At Once in Precedent-Setting Launch on Monday
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had a lot to be excited about on Monday after his reusable rocket-oriented aerospace company set at least four different records with...
DEC 04, 2018
Space & Astronomy
DEC 04, 2018
Learn How NASA's Apollo 12 Mission Escaped Double Lightning Strikes
When NASA’s Apollo 12 mission was preparing to launch on November 14th, 1969, ominous storm clouds began swarming the launch pad. Regardless, weather...
JAN 09, 2019
Space & Astronomy
JAN 09, 2019
Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 Instrument Temporarily Shuts Down Amid Technical Difficulties
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is perhaps one of the most important space observatories in existence today. Despite launching into orbit around the Ea...
Loading Comments...