The International Space Station Released a Satellite Which Harpoons Space Junk For Its First Field Test

The International Space Station Released a Satellite Which Harpoons Space Junk For Its First Field Test

This small dice which resembles a Borg dice might not look like a lot (until you have seen sufficient Star Trek: The Next Generation to be afraid of the Borg), however it’ll assist us resolve a large drawback surrounding the Earth.

Earth’s orbit is increasingly filling up with space junk and debris, a lot of which comes from defunct or destroyed satellites, and whereas we have by no means skilled a Gravity scenario the place flying house particles triggered a catastrophic collision simply but, the danger is simply going to extend as we proceed launching stuff up previous the Earth’s environment. 

To assist clear up the cluttered house across the Earth, a variety of completely different firms, together with Airbus, Surrey Satellite Technology, and NanoRacks, recently launched a cube-shaped satellite (onboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule) to the International Space Station. This satellite tv for pc, called RemoveDEBRIS, notably contains a harpoon which it could possibly deploy to spear and accumulate house junk.

In its first check since arriving on the ISS, RemoveDEBRIS was just released from the station through the robotic arm Canadarm2, and researchers on the University of Surrey in England confirmed shortly after that they’d established contact with the satellite tv for pc. At 220 kilos (100 kilograms), it is one of many largest payloads ever deployed from the ISS.

For the following couple months, engineers will keep involved with RemoveDEBRIS, though it isn’t anticipated to interrupt out its harpoon till experiments start towards the top of this yr. And even then, the harpoon is simply a single instrument within the veritable Swiss military knife that’s RemoveDEBRIS, which additionally comprises a internet for catching house particles and a massive drag sail for braking and deorbiting itself, every of which must be examined individually.

That drag sail is very vital – it is the ultimate instrument that RemoveDEBRIS will use since it’ll permit the satellite tv for pc to fall again to Earth, however it’ll even be vital for exhibiting how a satellite can be safely deorbited so it won’t add to the clutter. It could be reasonably ironic of RemoveDEBRIS grew to become a piece of particles itself after performing some cleansing, and its designers have been cautious to keep away from that.

Ideally, RemoveDEBRIS would be the first of many satellites with nets and harpoons to gather house junk. Different organizations have completely different quantities of junk that they are monitoring, however the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) tracks over 23,000 large amounts of debris bigger than a softball, and it is suspected that there are numerous extra tiny bits of particles that are not possible to trace.

So for now, we’ll simply concentrate on the bits of particles massive sufficient to harpoon.

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