Tossed net captures space junk in orbit-cleanup experiment

Christopher Davidson
September 22, 2018

If the network was used for capturing the real space debris, the satellite would have towed it to a lower orbit, and after the debris would burn upon reentry.

The experiment took place more than 300 km above the Earth. 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.

The project Manager noted that one of the most unsafe situations with garbage collection in outer space is the collision of two large objects, which can lead to an increase in the speed of the debris and chain of further collisions, which can be corrupted military and communication satellites.

The target, deployed by the satellite for the objective of the demonstration, wasn't actually a piece of space debris. This debris poses a hazard not only to the International Space Station and its crew, but to the Hubble Space Telescope and other satellites.

The worry is that these 40,000 objects could collide into, and damage, operational satellites.

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Built by a consortium of European space companies as well as researchers from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, the satellite, financed in part by the European Commission, was launched into orbit from the International Space Station in June.

The RemoveDebris satellite will conduct a few more experiments in the coming months, including testing navigation features that could help guide the satellite to a specific piece of debris.

Deploying the first harpoon capture technology used in orbit. The project is co-funded by the European Commission. That's relatively cheap as far as space travel goes. But he says that made the test even more realistic.

Another barrier facing such a project are worldwide treaties.

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