FEB 19, 2019 07:20 PM PST

Advances in Space Junk Cleanup Technology Could Change the World for the Better

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

It was only a few days ago that the British RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft tested the concept of a tethered harpoon as a means of space junk cleanup for the first time, and it was more successful than we ever could have hoped. But what does this mean for the future of space junk cleanup? A good question, but the answer is more complicated than one might think.

Although the harpoon-centric test was deemed successful, that doesn’t mean we’ll be mass-deploying space junk harpoons anytime soon. Cleaning up the uncountable bits of space junk that encircle our planet today will necessitate careful planning and something that’s much more efficient than a single-use space junk harpoon satellite like RemoveDEBRIS.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some space junk bits are much too small to capture with a harpoon or net. Many pieces of space junk are as tiny as nuts or bolts, and they’re traveling more than ten times faster than the speed of a bullet. Sadly, space junk fragments like these continue to multiply as more significant pieces of space junk collide in outer space.

Cleaning up space junk is critical if we want to ensure the long-term feasibility of space travel; this is because those fast-moving fragments pose severe risks to rockets and astronauts that aspire to leave Earth’s atmosphere to visit other worlds. Although the RemoveDEBRIS concept is nothing more than just a concept at the time of this writing, the success of these tests could one day contribute to an effective means of cleaning up space junk for good.

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
DEC 09, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 09, 2019
Japan's Hayabusa2 Probe Lands on Ryugu Asteroid for a Second Time
Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft arrived at asteroid 162173 Ryugu last Summer, and it continues to conduct scientific experiments on the distant space ro...
DEC 09, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 09, 2019
Will Humans One Day Give Birth in Space?
Deep space missions are becoming an increasingly relevant topic of discussion in the space community these days, and perhaps unsurprisingly, this often lea...
DEC 09, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 09, 2019
The Universe is So Vast That Even the Speed of Light Seems Insignificant
When astronomers measure the distance between two distant objects in outer space, the term ‘light-year’ gets tossed around somewhat frequently....
DEC 09, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 09, 2019
NASA and SpaceX Reevaluate Commercial Crew Timeline
It appeared that there was recently some tension between NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk regarding the American space agency&rs...
DEC 09, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 09, 2019
InSight Lander's Stymied 'Mole' On the Move Again
NASA’s InSight mission touched down on the Martian surface just under a year ago and has since deployed a suite of scientific instruments to investig...
DEC 09, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 09, 2019
Apollo 12 - A Dramatic Journey Led by the Desire to Explore
On November 19th, the Apollo 12 astronauts, Pete Conrad and Alan Bean, became, respectively, the third and the fourth men to ever walk on the Moon’s...
Loading Comments...