Published: Tue, June 26, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

First Satellite to Collect Space Junk Deployed From ISS

First Satellite to Collect Space Junk Deployed From ISS

Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Center at the University of Surrey and principal investigator for the mission, said: "After nearly 5 years of development, it is exciting to finally be in a position where we can test these extremely exciting technologies in the field".

The RemoveDEBRIS mission, led by the University of Surrey and built by the world's leading small satellite manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), with technology on board designed by Airbus, is one of the world's first attempts to tackle the build-up of risky space debris orbiting the Earth. The satellite has been created to test out the efficiency of the existing technologies in removing junk from space.

The mission to clear space junk using harpoons, guide sails and dragnets called the RemoveDebris has started with its experiments in low-Earth orbit (LEO) and has been launched from the International Space Station (ISS).

"We will need three to four weeks for each experiment", he said. Hence, researchers have come up with an idea where a satellite will try to capture a debris and will destroy it in space.

A new spacecraft dedicated to cleaning up some of the alarming quantities of space junk - including old satellites and defunct spacecraft - encircling Earth has been launched from the ISS. The payload also includes camera and LIDAR systems to assist in the satellite navigation. "The experiments will all be carried out below the orbit of the ISS".

The net experiment involves deploying a cubesat (a small satellite used for research) from the craft, before then launching the net to catch it.

However, the agency later made a decision to use a robotic arm instead of the harpoon and net, as the arm can be repurposed for orbital servicing missions, Luisa Innocenti, head of ESA's Clean Space Initiative, said past year.

An artist's illustration of the RemoveDebris space junk cleanup prototype deploying its drag sail in orbit. It was projected on a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from Florida, US in April this year only. Space will have so much debris within a decade that it would become too risky to leave the Earth's atmosphere. "We will continue to work closely with teams across the world to make our expertise available to help solve this issue".

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