The RemoveDEBRIS satellite, one of the first attempts to address the accumulation of hazardous space debris, has successfully used its harpoon capture system in orbit and started collecting trash.
Space debris has become a massive problem for humans.
In fact, the amount of trash currently orbiting our planet is posing a grave threat to future missions to Mars and the moon.
According to reports from NASA, there are more than 500,000 pieces of junk currently floating around Earth’s orbit. This space trash includes defunct satellites, rocket boosters, nut, and bolts — all of which pose a massive threat not only to spacecraft but to astronauts as well.
The numbers are worrying.
According to the European Space Agency, as of January 2018, there are nearly thirty thousand objects larger than 10 centimeters around Earth.
An estimated 750,000 objects that range between 1 cm to 10 cm are currently orbiting Earth, and about 166 million objects between 1 millimeter to 1 cm in size are floating above your head, as you are reading this.
Its finally time to clean up the trash we left in space, and RemoveDEBRIS may have the solution to get the job done.
Hunting Space Debris
RemoveDEBRIS harpoon, designed to hunt down orbital junk has finally been tested in space for the first time, part of an active debris-removal demonstration mission dubbed RemoveDebris.
A pen-sized titanium harpoon was fired on February 8 into an aluminum target, which extended from the spacecraft employing a carbon-fiber boom.
During the test, it successfully snagged the space junk out of orbit and reeled it back to the main spacecraft.
The harpoon was fired at 20 meters per second to penetrate the target and demonstrate the ability of a harpoon to capture space debris.
This test marks the third successful experiment for the RemoveDEBRIS project.
Experts previously used the onboard network to capture a simulated piece of debris, and then tested its modern, camera-based LiDAR navigation system to identify further space debris.
A video posted by the University of Surrey shows the success of the experiment in orbit.
Check it out below:
“The harpoon was RemoveDebris’ most demanding experiment and the fact that it was a success is a testament to all involved,” Guglielmo Aglietti, the mission’s lead investigator explained in a statement.
“The RemoveDebris project provides strong evidence of what can be achieved with the power of collaboration — pooling together the experience across industry and the research field to achieve something truly remarkable.”
The team is now getting ready for the final experiment, which will take place in March and will have the RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft inflate a sail that will drag debris to Earth’s atmosphere, where they are expected to burn up.
As noted by space.com, ground-control teams will attempt to maintain contact with the small spacecraft for as long as possible in order to gather data about the drag sail’s performance.