Space Junk Successfully Caught With RemoveDEBRIS Spacecraft’s Net

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“This is not sci-fi. We repeat, not sci-fi,” wrote NanoRacks on Twitter as they posted a black and white video of a net catching debris in space. NanoRacks is a company in Texas which developed the deployer of a small satellite called RemoveDEBRIS.

Back in April, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launched to the ISS to deliver supplies and experiments for the orbiting lab. The falcon also carried the satellite RemoveDEBRIS. This spacecraft was developed by the University of Surrey and designed to clean up the space using nets and harpoons.

Six months after being launched into space, the satellite has started its tests, and until now, the video released by the developers show promising results.

On Sunday, the mini-satellite cast a big net that wrapped around the targeted junk. It covered almost six meters until reaching the target.

The director of the University of Surrey, Guglielmo Aglietti stated on Thursday that they didn’t expect the target to spin that fast, but the test was more realistic. He added that they conducted this test to show that there are many ways to catch debris from space – which is the junk from old rockets, spacecraft parts, and even tools dropped by astronauts on their spacewalk missions.

Years of Planning, Engineering, and Coordination

The problem with the debris is that it’s a hazard to anything in Earth’s orbit: the International Space Station, the astronauts, the Hubble Space Telescope and other satellites.

Aglietti, added that it might sound simple to use a net, but we must consider it was done in space:

“The complexity of using a net in space to capture a piece of debris took many years of planning, engineering and coordination between the Surrey Space Centre, Airbus and our partners – but there is more work to be done. These are very exciting times for us all.”

The net which is almost five meters across will fall with its target out of orbit and burn up in the atmosphere.

The net — almost five meters across — and its target will eventually fall out of orbit together and burn up. RemoveDEBRIS also has a harpoon which will be tested similarly in February.


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